Culture

‘American Hustle’ Inspired by Real-Life Jewish Conman

“American Hustle,” David O. Russell’s inventive and energetic take on the Abscam scandal, starts with a tone-setting (and laugh-inducing) placard on the screen:

“Some of this actually happened.”

But, of course, a lot of it didn’t, and in that terrain between fact and fiction, Russell and co-screenwriter Eric Warren Singer have re-imagined the story as it might have been conceived by Jonathan Swift and John Waters.

Abscam was a late ‘70s, early ‘80s FBI corruption investigation that netted — some say, entrapped — more than a half dozen congressman and a passel of state and local officials.

It was led by a Long Island conman named Mel Weinberg, who’d been indicted for mail fraud and other charges related to a fake loan scheme he’d operated. An ambitious FBI agent hired him (!) to churn the waters for cons like his. He was even paid a bonus for every conviction he earned. Ultimately, this led to the congressmen.

I should note that the FBI hiring a conman and paying a piece rate bonus is not the bizarro film, but the bizarro reality.

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‘American Hustle’ Inspired by Real-Life Jewish Conman

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