HOLLYWOOD—Director David O. Russell has produced some solid films in the past few years. In 2010, audiences were treated to the thrilling “The Fighter,” in 2012, he delivered “Silver Linings Playbook” and in 2013 we have “American Hustle.”

Out of the three, “Hustle” has a bit of different vibe, there are outrageous elements of comedy sprinkled throughout the picture, with loads of dramatic firepower from an all-star ensemble including Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner. I’ll admit I’m not a fan of pictures that tend to flash-forward to a time period that is not of the present, but when done right it works. “American Hustle” takes place during the 70s, and involves con artists, the government, FBI agents and a lot of surprises.

The story highlights a fictionalized account of the Abscam scandal, which involved an East Coast FBI operation sting. The script written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer is polished, precise and heavenly in so many words. Bale stars as Irving Rosenfeld, a top-caliber con artist, with more tricks up his sleeve than one can expect. It’s a complete transformation for the actor who packed on a few pounds for the role. Bale has been known for ”˜transformative’ roles, take a look at his work in “American Psycho” and “The Machinist.”

To compliment Irving is his sidekick, and mistress as some would say, Sydney Prosser ( Adams); a former stripper turned con artist. This could be one of the most layered complicated performances for the actress who has consistently delivered caliber work in my opinion. Adams is a revelation in a riskier role not seen from the actress; she’s sexy, she’s cunning, she’s convoluted, she’s deceptive. The audience never truly knows what Sydney’s angle is, just one of the many treats of “American Hustle.” Every character has an ulterior motive and the desire for the spectator to know what that is drives the interest in the picture.

Sydney attempt to con FBI Agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) gets her and Irving entangled in a sting operation to benefit DiMaso, but I’d argue it was Sydney’s plan all along.  She’s well aware of Irving’s wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), another sensational performance in the picture who soaks up the screen during her presence. Rosalyn is a firecracker and can explode at any time, the interaction between her and Adams is a feat in acting that could land both ladies Oscar nominations in January.

Frankly, I’d be surprised if Cooper, didn’t garner a nod also, for his fast-talking manic performance as DiMaso. The actor has consistently grown over the years, proving his craft in “Silver Linings Playbook” and take it a step further with a complicated character who has a mission, but might have ulterior motives with Sydney as well. In the midst of all this backstabbing is Camden Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) who finds himself entangled between two powerhouses, the con artists looking to use him as leverage and the FBI hoping to get him to spill the beans on all the corruptive parties; Renner brings a bit of humor to the picture, alongside Cooper and Bale.  He may appear to be a side-player, but his role in the picture is central to the narrative development.

“Hustle” excels on so many levels its scary, but this movie rises to the top of the charts for a variety of reasons rarely seen in cinema. It has a unique story, an enthralling narrative, layered characters, stellar acting, smart dialogue and great direction. Rarely does a movie contain all these elements in a way that mesh with such fluidity. The hoopla of the picture being a comedy does have me at war with some critics. Yes, it has humorous moments, but in its overall delivery “American Hustle” is a drama and it’s a damn superb one to say the least.