From its opening shot, American Hustle is about the art of the con, the small cons we pull on each other and, more importantly, ourselves. The con can be in the image we project to the world to the point where we can no longer distinguish who we truly are from the lie we’ve created. David O. Russell‘s new film features characters who lie to the world in order to lie to themselves, but the filmmaker never manages to organize the lies and the liars into something bigger and more poignant. They’re random molecules bouncing off each other in a way that’s fun, flighty, and occasionally a little melancholy. Russell seems bent on trying to meld his offbeat earlier films with his recent, more populist fare, but the result is a piece that’s often amusing, but rarely audacious.