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American Hustle

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The Mob Boss

By Amir Faress • 12/25/19

Robert De Niro makes a brief appearance halfway through the film as Victor Tellegio, a notorious mob boss with a reputation to never bury the bodies. Richie, a rookie FBI agent posing as an advisor/interpreter of a fake sheikh, could not have guessed, when arranging the meeting with the mobster, that Tellegio speaks fluent Arabic. Richie is now in big trouble. Having lived in the Gulf region for a number of years, Tellegio could tell a fake a mile away. Or could he?

The scene is mind-blowingly intense, yet mind-blowingly flawed.

The Arabic-speaking mob boss who owes his great fortune as much to his street smarts as to his natural talents, somehow cannot tell that the other side is just full of it. He never realizes the Arab fellow is actually Mexican (not even after hearing him rattle off a memorized phrase in Arabic) or that Richie’s Arabic is just make-believe gibberish. Any person with street smarts (even one not fluent in Arabic) would have easily picked up on the signs.

And it is not like the meeting was short. It actually goes on for quite some time, giving Tellegio plenty of time to observe. The scene cuts to a lengthy exchange inside a restroom between two other characters. All the while the charade continues until it is suddenly disrupted. The mob boss does seem a little suspicious toward the end, but that is the extent of it. He just sits through the whole thing, observing this monkey business, never picking up on any of the signs. Give me a break!

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