Public Vengeance as a Career Tool: “American Hustle” and Prosecutorial Politics

by John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening, 2/3/14

In this town, money talks and bullshit walks.
-PA Rep. Ozzie Myers on his Abscam tape

Political sports scorekeeper Chris Matthews recently predicted American Hustle would become a classic film of American politics of the order of Citizen Kane. I’d add All the King’s Men and All the President’s Men.

What’s so wonderful about American Hustle is that it’s very serious at the same time that it has great fun with a contemporary political system dominated by the archetype of the aggressive prosecutor. While a servant of the state, he or she ruthlessly advances a career by bringing down others. Dishonesty and the entrapping scam are major tools of the trade.

With Chris Christie, the whole smelly system has narratively come full circle. An aggressive federal prosecutor with eyes on the White House is suddenly the hunted prey of other hungry prosecutors looking for a career boost. The attorney credited with getting the goods to put away Governor Blagojevic in Illinois has been hired to go for Christie.

Who’s scammin’ whom? Having fun at the public opening of a renovated historic Jersey building.Who’s scammin’ whom? Having fun at the public opening of a renovated historic Jersey building.

While American Hustle may be based on the late seventies Abscam scandal, it’s more art than journalism or history. “Some of this actually happened,” we’re told on screen up front. Like all good fiction based on reality, the art is in finding a deeper truth. In this case, writer Eric Warren Singer and writer/director David O. Russell have changed the names to make it work in a mythic mind space….

continue reading atThis Can’t Be Happening

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