David O. Russell is a great director of actors. Many filmmakers specialize in particular type of scene or visual style; Russell, on the other hand, knows how to wring a strong performance from an eager performer. We know this because actors from last two films, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, both received Academy Awards for their work (Russell also famously berated Lily Tomlin during I <3 Huckabees, which suggests his demands are high). American Hustle, Russell’s latest, is an attempt to get great performances from a dark comedy about criminals. Some actors have goofy fun with compelling performances, yet Russell fails his cast with his meandering screenplay and direction that abandons a cohesive sense of tone or style.