Loosely based on the FBI Abscam operation of the late Seventies, the film tells the tale of a small-time con, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) who teams up with the beautiful and persuasive Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams).
Posing as an English aristocrat named Lady Edith Greensley, Prosser improves on Rosenfeld’s scams – the two together make up a powerful team. However, as the stakes rise, so does the possibility of getting caught.
The two are sought out by FBI agent Richie Dimaso (Bradley Cooper) and exposed. With prison looming, Prosser agrees to cooperate with Dimaso in a far-reaching sting operation against corrupt political figures, including the well-loved mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).
She manipulates Dimaso into thinking she has feelings for him, distancing herself from Rosenfeld to be more convincing. This works well, as Polito takes a liking to Rosenfeld’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), who refuses to divorce him despite knowing about his mistress. For his part, Rosenfeld doesn’t want to leave Rosalyn out of fear of losing his adopted son, Danny. And so, a tangled web of lies and deceit develops.
The film boasts an incredible cast, award-winning superstars all, who are outstanding in their respective roles. Director David O Russell has worked with every member of the main cast before, and his handed-picked choices are as important as the plot itself. Russell also creates a convincing environment through the music he uses – a perfect representation of the late Seventies and early Eighties – as well as the hair and costume styles.
How much of the film is true is questionable. The characters keep the audience engaged, maintaining a situation where all is not as it seems.
The film is certainly worthwhile viewing, but audiences who set their expectations too high may be left disappointed. The story is, ultimately, very simple and predictable.
This is entertaining stuff, but certainly not Best Picture material.