American Hustle, David O. Russell’s newest film staring Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, is a fictional film based on the true events of the Abscam scandal.

American Hustle follows Irving Rosenfeld, a mastermind conman played by Christian Bale, as he gets entangled with FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) and the two concoct an elaborate sting operation that borderlines on entrapment to expose corrupt government officials. In reality, conman Mel Weinberg worked with FBI agent John Good, in Abscam, a two-year operation in the late 70s and early 80s, which resulted in the arrests and convictions of Sen. Harrison A. Williams of New Jersey, Angelo Errichetti, the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey Congressman Frank Thompson Jr. and others. All convicted were caught on video accepting bribes. As in American Hustle, an FBI agent masquerading as an Arab Sheik was involved.

Abscam is thoroughly explored in the book The Sting Man by Robert W. Greene, a text largely seen as the starting point for American Hustle. Good worked as a consultant on the set of American Hustle, and Weinberg reportedly joined him and spent a few days consulting with Bale on the role of Rosenfeld, believed to be the character most mirrored from the real events.

Mayor Errichetti appears to be the basis of Jeremy Renner’s character in American Hustle, Mayor Carmine Polito, who gets caught up on Rosenfeld’s scheme due to his desire to build Atlantic City.

The case is widely regarded as a stain on the American justice system, and is portrayed as such in American Hustle.

American Hustle, now playing in theaters, has garnered a fair amount of award buzz, with Bale, Adams, Lawrence and Cooper all nominated for Golden Globe acting awards for their performances, and Russell nominated for Best Director.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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