Loosely based on the Abscam scandal of the 1970s – a government scheme that saw con artists helping the FBI trap corrupt congressmen – Hustle is packed with Russell regulars like Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence (who nabbed Oscars for The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, respectively), as well as Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams.
Bale stars as con man Irving Rosenfeld and Lawrence plays his wife, Rosalyn, in a performance Travers is sure will garner her another Oscar nod (he was especially blown away by her performance of Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die"). Meanwhile, Adams plays Sydney Prosser, a stripper turned Cosmopolitan writer who's helping Bale and sleeping with him to boot. When Irving is caught by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper), he's enlisted to help bring down Carmine Polito, the mayor of Camden, New Jersey (played by Jeremy Renner).
Seven congressmen were arrested in the Abscam operation, but that's not necessarily how things play out here. "David O. Russell is a wild man and he knows what to do with actors," Travers raves. "There's an energy to this guy, his movies just move like that!" Travers singles out a stunning argument between Adams and Lawrence in a casino bathroom. "You laugh, laugh and laugh some more," Travers says. "And at the end you take a look at us as basically all scam artists. This is what we do."