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Posted at 2 p.m. on Dec. 13, 2013
Christian Bale might be Batman to many, thanks to Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, but his current slate of movies show an actor exploring the dark side of the American Dream. He’s not a superhero in either one, but he helps tell unique stories of resonance.
His turn as con-man Irving Rosenfeld in David O. Russell’s “American Hustle,” an adaptation of one of the more bizarre scandals of the 1970s, Abscam, looks priceless. Critics are gushing about the movie, which underneath its surface-level ’70s spectacle illuminates an episode in American politics and law enforcement almost too weird to believe. Fake Arab sheiks, corrupt congressmen and low-level Atlantic City FBI agents populate the sordid affair. About as close as we’ve gotten recently is incarcerated ex-Rep. William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson, D-La., hiding cash in his freezer. The only thing stranger than “American Hustle” might be the true story it’s based on. It opens Dec. 20 in area theaters.
Another Bale movie about the American underbelly is already out in theaters. In Scott Cooper’s “Out of the Furnace,” Bale’s character, Russell Baze, is a guy trying to do the right thing in a dead-end part of the Rust Belt, working in a factory that’s about to close and supporting and protecting his family, which includes a brother in the military facing multiple tours overseas. It’s a grim portrait of the kind of world where many Americans have been left out of the economy, betrayed by its institutions and left behind to fend for themselves. It’s nice of an actor from Wales to so vividly portray the American experience.