I liked David O Russell's latest movie. Like Ridley Scott's similar American Gangster, it was sprawling, ambitious and featured a superb cast amid a 1970s setting. But while I was dazzled by Christian Bale's combover and pot belly, mesmerised by Amy Adams' acting prowess, and marvelled at Bradley Cooper's impressive hair and occasionally OTT performance, there was a nagging feeling that ran throughout the movie: the story just wasn't as impressive as some episodes of the BBC's defunct conman drama Hustle.
Set In 1978, the tale of con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Bale), Sydney Prosser (Adams), FBI agent Richie Di Maso (Cooper) and politician Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) wrapped up in a tale of double and triple crosses was mostly compelling, but the second act was as flabby as Bale's belly.
I'm not always a huge fan of Christian, but here he was a likeable sort whose occasionally comical persona was endearing.
Robert De Niro popped up in a chilling, glorified cameo - one of his best turns since Russell's Silver Linings Playbook. However, as with that movie, Jennifer Lawrence stole the show, this time as Bale's wife, Rosalyn.
I've stopped believing her previous performances were flukes; JenLaw is the real deal, dominating every frame she's in, whether spitting venom to Adams' faux Brit character Edith, or cleaning to the strains of Live and Let Die while her bemused screen son looks on.
Some actors show the cogs turning and others are naturals. No prizes for guessing which category Ms Lawrence slots into.
American Hustle is a good movie, not a fantastic one. It aims to be a three course meal of a drama, and has the right ingredients, including a great soundtrack, but I wanted a cinematic feast.
Alas I wound up with a not bad TV dinner of a movie cooked in a 'science oven' (aka microwave).
Tasty, good looking, but ultimately a bit plastic.