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American Hustle - Blu-ray Review

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American Hustle - Movie Review

 

5 stars

On its surface, American Hustle is the story of one of the most extraordinarily damning scandals of the ‘70s. But beneath that grimy facade of sleazy con-men, corrupt politicians, and oily FBI agents, is the powerful love story between Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), two small-time hustlers who get caught with their hands in the racketeering cookie jar by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper).

At least that’s the story David O. Russell is telling, anyway. An opening title card proclaiming "some of this actually happened" lets us know that what we’re about to see will have very little in common with the real Abscam scandal that brought down nearly a dozen U.S. Congressmen, Senators, and local New York political figures and almost everything to do with all involved having a whole lot of fun – including the audience.

That’s right, despite the let-on to the contrary by the film’s trailers, American Hustle is a comedy. And what a good one it is. It’s not so much the “ha-ha” type with well-timed jokes and hilarious sight gags – though there are plenty of those, as it is one built on smart and witty dialogue from a snappy script by Russell and Eric Singer that allows all the performers to hustle our sympathy, despite their pitifully sinful ways.

As part of a plea deal to avoid prosecution, Irving and Sydney are forced to work with agent DiMaso of the FBI to set up a sting meant to capture corrupt government officials, starting with Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), a New Jersey political operator eager to bring about the resurrection of Atlantic City with new real estate and development deals. He’s so eager in fact, it means dealing with an unusual character in the form of a fake wealthy Arab investor named Sheik Abdullah (Michael Peña). This part of the story is true. You can’t make this stuff up.

Quickly seduced by the glitz and glamour of Irving and Sydney’s alluring world of confidence, Agent DiMaso sees in the scam a chance to transform himself into the man he wants to be … a man in control of his own destiny. In fact, everyone sees their chance to reinvent, especially Sydney and Irving who hope to pull off this one last scam to remake themselves in order to survive – but when they finally do it, what will happen to their love for each other?

The main obstacle to their dangerous relationship will be Irving’s wife and mother of his adopted son, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) – a manipulative fire-from-the-hip wild card to the entire operation as her emotional instability could bring them all down. Lawrence is brilliant as the unstable Long Island housewife who plays perfectly counter to Adams’ sophisticated Sydney. Rosalyn’s lack of cultural refinement, constant gum-chewing, and red acrylic nails play nicely alongside her Brooklyn accented rat-a-tat-tat dialogue. Lawrence’s performance here is sure to be remembered come Oscar time.

So is that of Bale, who reunites with Russell and comes out swinging with his beer-bellied shyster sporting an elaborate comb-over he meticulously grooms in one of the film’s opening scenes. His Irving makes others buy what he’s selling probably because he truly believes it himself. We feel for the guy in spite of his shameful ways simply because he’s so darn lovable with a comedic charm and deceptively naive vulnerability that’s hard to pull off.

At times, director David O. Russell’s genre-bending American Hustle is as smooth and sexy as a Disco ‘Round line dance with cool period costumes and a paisley-tinged soundtrack. But at other times it emits the offensive stench of real life with its all-too-authentic attempt at portraying the way we all pretend not to be – trying to figure out just how far the envelope can be pushed in our quest to become successful.

American Hustle - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence.
Runtime:
138 mins
Director
: David O. Russell
Writer
: Eric Singer, David O. Russell
Cast:
Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper
Genre
: Comedy | Crime
Tagline:
Everyone Hustles To Survive
Memorable Movie Quote: "Always take a favor over money."
Distributor:
Columbia Pictures
Official Site:
www.americanhustle-movie.com/site
Release Date:
December 20, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available

Synopsis: A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock the States, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that’s as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down.

American Hustle - Movie Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - March 18, 2014
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; Digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: A

American Hustle has a filmic look, occasionally supplying the light grain of a '70s film (most noticeably at the start, where the film opens with a '70s Columbia Pictures logo). The Blu-ray's 2.40:1 presentation does that justice while also dazzling with the clarity and sharpness we expect of a 2013 film in 1080p. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix is equally superb, distributing dialogue and period needle drops crisply and purposefully. For being such a global hit and a Sony release, these discs are unusually deficient in foreign language options, offering only English soundtracks and subtitles. Of course, no dub could match the rhythms of the film's language.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

There are two discs, one is the blu and the other is the DVD. Each disc contains just two bonus feature listings, but both are substantial. First up is a collection of 11 deleted and extended scenes that's stronger and more notable than most sections. It includes a 5-minute scene establishing the bounds of Sydney's British accent, some unseen moments near the end, and quite a bit more of Mayor Carmine Polito. While none of these would have improved the film (and several would have weakened it), they're all interesting to see on a production of this caliber. Next, we get "The Making of American Hustle" which isn't as generic or routine as it sounds. David O’Russell explains his interest in characters, worlds, humanity, heart and soul, priorities that his producers and cast all voice appreciation for. The piece comes to touch on the period production and costume design, defining what went into conveying the post-Sexual Revolution, pre-AIDS time of 1978.

  • The Making of American Hustle (17 min)
  • Deleted Scenes:
    • Cry British (4:51), Brick (0:57), Carmine On Stage Singing (1:24), Backhand Like a Whip (2:48), Bad Sign (1:30), Stoop to Conquer (1:34), Live and Let Die (3:26), Evil Ways (4:01), Carmine on the Street (1:11), Richie is Duped (0:47), and Carmine Returns Home (0:54)

 

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