American Bullshit

American Hustle

The past three years have been very kind to David O. Russell. The director is responsible for 2010’s The Fighter and 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, so naturally he’s stepping back into the game with a new film that combines the very best forces from both movies to contend this award season. American Hustle is set in the 1970s and ’80s in New York, which is ever-evident from this new batch of  stills, released by USA Today. The film centers on the FBI’s Abscam sting operation and will deal with government agents and conmen on both sides of the affair. Let’s talk about that perm. Bradley Cooper, who plays an “unhinged FBI agent” has a head full of curls that is just truly terrible, but the beard almost makes up for it. Almost. According to USA Today, the hairstyle was popular among ’70s professional baseball players, but that really doesn’t make it okay. Christian Bale as the greasiest Bronx conman there ever was serves up some fantastic crumpled suits in that orange-brown-putrid green color combination you just never see outside any other decade. I think those aviators paired with the combover are a nice touch, but who am I to judge? Check out one more still, after the break.

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David O. Russell and Bradley Cooper

In a nice bit of Friday confirmation clean-up, Atlas Entertainment and Annapurna Pictures have just circulated a press release that firms up a spat of casting buzz we’ve long been reporting on. The release confirms that David O. Russell‘s formerly-titled American Bullshit (which is currently looking for a perhaps more marketing-friendly title) will star Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Amy Adams, along with a somewhat unexpected Christian Bale. Russell is writing the film’s screenplay with scribe Eric Warren Singer, who first wrote his own original script for the project (a script that appeared on the 2012 Black List with the title American Bullshit). The press release also provides our first official synopsis of the film, which we’ve long known would revolve around the true story of an F.B.I.-launched sting attack aimed at rooting out corruption on Congress, one that was notably conceived of by “the world’s greatest con man.”

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David O. Russell and Bradley Cooper

The Toronto International Film Festival has so far issued few surprises – after all, most of us were surely expecting that Cloud Atlas would divide, Argo would be solid, The Place Beyond the Pines would enthrall, and that Thanks for Sharing would play like Shame-lite – but there has been one film whose praise has surprised many, most of all this writer. The pieces of David O. Russell‘s Silver Linings Playbook are all good – the director, the source material, the cast (including Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro) – but the film’s first trailer just hinted at a film that was light and amusing. Apparently, though, the film is much more than that, and a number of critics are already throwing “awards-worthy” praise all over it. That said, it seems like the casting of Cooper (swapped out for Russell’s frequent star, Mark Wahlberg) was an unexpectedly solid choice, and neither Russell nor Cooper seem ready to let that magic go.

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It was announced back in March that David O. Russell had been attached to direct a Black List script from writer Eric Singer called American Bullshit. Well, seeing as casting has now begun, it would seem like the project is officially a go, but it’s no longer going to be called American Bullshit. Already on board this now untitled drama – which tells the true story of a con artist helping the F.B.I. weed out political corruption – are Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner; and THR is reporting that a deal has just been signed to add an exciting young actress who’s previously worked with Russell into the mix. The Fighter’s Amy Adams is now on board to play Maxine Gardner, the mistress to Cooper’s character, con man Mel Weinberg. Renner, for his part, will be playing an F.B.I. agent. As is the case with many of the more interesting-sounding projects that are chock full of fan favorite actors and creators these days, Russell’s latest is being brought to us by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures.

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Though he can reportedly be a bit of a handful to work with, whenever director David O. Russell manages to get along with everyone long enough to actually get a movie made, the results are usually pretty intriguing. And ever since his 2010 film, The Fighter, crossed over into the mainstream and became a financial success, he’s become a personality whose moves everyone is watching very closely. He currently has two films in post-production, a strange-sounding project about a waitress with a nail in her head who takes her cause to Washington D.C. called Nailed, and a movie about an ex-mental patient trying to make his life right called The Silver Linings Playbook. That’s a lot to have on your plate already, but it doesn’t look like he’s waiting for those films to hit theaters before he lines up his next job. THR is reporting that Russell has signed on to helm a script from the 2012 Black List called American Bullshit. Written by Eric Warren Singer, American Bullshit tells the true story of a sting operation that the F.B.I. put together to root out corruption in congress back in 1980. Internally called Abscam, the undercover operation was conceived for authorities by a man who is described as being “the world’s greatest con man.”

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In the late 1970s, the FBI went into business creating Abdul Enterprises. They weren’t selling Paula Abdul memorobilia (considering that she wouldn’t even be famous until a few years later); they were trying to see if members of Congress would attempt to bribe a (fake) foreign dignitary. Some did. The whole thing was coined the Abdul Scam (or Abscam for short), and shouted all over the nightly news. It resulted in several convictions. This is the tale that Ben Affleck might be looking to as his next directorial effort. The script for American Bullshit was written by The International writer Eric Warren Singer according to Deadline Williamsburg. They also note that Affleck has to choose between this, a story about New York Yankees wife-swapping in the 70s called The Trade, and a life-do-over movie about a middle-aged man who becomes 18 again called Replay. And, you know, the other half-dozen projects he’s thinking about doing. The FBI would make for the most interesting subject matter here, and it would be a nice lateral move away from the crime dramas of Boston.

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published: 04.17.2014
B-
published: 04.17.2014
D+
published: 04.17.2014
B-
published: 04.16.2014
B+

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