David O. Russell's fictionalized drama about Abscam, the FBI sting operation that nailed more than a half dozen U.S. legislators on bribery and conspiracy charges, made me nostalgic for the 70s—not for all the bad hair, splayed collars, gold chains, and plunging necklines, but for an era when grown-up movies like this one came out almost every week. Scripted by Eric Warren Singer (The International
) and given a comic punch-up by Russell, it centers on two con-artists-in-love (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) who are sucked into the operation by a dodgy FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) and forced to entrap the beloved mayor of Camden, New Jersey (Jeremy Renner). Filled with rich characters and sharp dialogue, the movie turns on questions of friendship and fidelity, both personal and political, with a knockout performance by Jennifer Lawrence as the con man's jealous, ball-busting wife.
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J.R. Jones and Ben Sachs each pick their top ten.