When I was a little kid, I didn’t understand how keys worked. All I knew was that mommy or daddy stuck a key into the doorknob, jiggled it a little, and the door magically became openable. I didn’t understand that the turning of the key was what did it, and my brain didn’t have enough information to come up with a valid answer. So I decided that maybe if I put the key in the doorknob and shook it so that it made the same sounds that it did when mommy or daddy did it, the door would probably unlock. I tested this hypothesis, and of course it failed. I bring this up because it’s such a perfect metaphor for what’s wrong with American Hustle. David O. Russell doesn’t know how to make a thoughtful, engaging film. He just knows what one sounds like. American Hustle is him shaking the hell out of that key so that it makes just the right noise, and he gets the exact same result that I did.
This one has been a long time coming. Even before I saw the film, I was brainstorming a number of clever ways to open this review (a terrible idea, by the way, but I couldn’t resist.) A number of ideas involving references to Batman and Robin presented themselves to me. Little did I know how appropriate one of those ideas would turn out to be. In case you’re unaware, the theme from Joel Schumacher’s final Batman opus was a Smashing Pumpkin’s tune called “The End is the Beginning is the End”, which won a Grammy for Best Rock Song. You may remember a remixed version, memorably used in the Watchmen trailer. But that title, and the way that the song ties back to the Batman of Christopher Nolan’s films, made it impossible to resist. So put on your Bat-slippers, make a nice cup of Bat-tea, hit play on the video below, and read my Bat-review of The Dark Knight Rises.