American Hustle is one of the most entertaining and highly praised films of the past year, garnering ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. Based upon fact ("Some of this actually happened," reads the disclaimer), it is a story about con artists which has so many twists and turns that it virtually demands at least one repeat showing. An outstanding ensemble cast and superb direction by David O. Russell will keep your attention from beginning to end. Apparently there have been complaints elsewhere about excessive grain on the Blu-ray release, but pay no attention to those people. This is another superb high-definition transfer from Sony.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Run Time: 2 Hr. 18 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UltraVioletStandard Two-Disc Blu-ray Keep Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 03/18/2014
It's almost scary how easy it can be to take money from desperate people.
The Production Rating: 5/5
American Hustle opens at the Plaza Hotel in New York City in April, 1978. Irving Rosenfeld (played by an almost unrecognizable Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams, looking more luscious than ever) are two hustlers who have been forced by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) to help him bust Camden, New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) in a bribery/kickback sting. Irving and Sydney are small-time but successful con artists who have been fleecing high-risk people who are in desperate need of loans during a period of tight credit and sky-high interest rates. Irving has been running a con whereby he takes an up-front fee of $5,000 to help his "clients" secure loans, but he never comes through with the money. He falls for Sydney after meeting her at a party and she willingly and enthusiastically becomes his partner in love and business. She assumes the persona of Lady Edith Greensly, a British woman of nobility who claims to be connected with London financiers. Eventually Irving and Sydney are nabbed by Richie, but the FBI agent has bigger fish to fry and he promises to go easy on the pair if they agree to work with him.
Richie isn't really concerned with small-time hucksters such as Irving and Sydney. He is looking to make a name for himself by bringing down corrupt politicians, and he focuses on Mayor Polito, who is eager to accept kickbacks to facilitate the revitalization of Atlantic City by Arab sheikhs. In the meantime, Richie falls for Sydney, whose relationship with Irving is complicated by the fact that he is married and has an adopted son. Irving's wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), is aware of his affair with Sydney, but Roslyn warns Sydney that Irving always returns to her in the end. Indeed, American Hustle is very much a complicated love story, which is a major reason why we care about what happens to the characters.
American Hustle is a difficult film to review, because to say anything more about the plot without spoilers is nearly impossible. The movie was inspired by the real-life Abscam scandal, which eventually resulted in the convictions of a U.S. Senator and six members of the House of Representatives. Suffice it to say that the script is full of laughs (you will never forget the microwave oven scene) and surprises, and it also includes one incredibly tense scene which will have you on the edge of your seat. The acting is terrific and each of the principal actors - Bale, Adams, Lawrence, and Cooper - justifiably received Academy Award nominations. Excellent supporting performances are turned in by Louis C.K., Jeremy Renner, and Shea Whigham, and there is an uncredited cameo by Robert De Niro. David O. Russell was nominated for Best Director and also for co-writing the excellent script with Eric Warren Singer. Anyone who remembers the era of leisure suits will appreciate the outstanding costume design by Michael Wilson, and the soundtrack is populated with familiar tunes from the era. This is an outstanding Blu-ray release.
The 2.40:1 1080p high definition image looks terrific, which is no surprise coming from Sony. As for the complaints about excessive grain, everything looks entirely appropriate and film-like to my eyes. The image is sharp and flawless, with vivid, solid colors, and I could look at Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence all day long. Black levels are excellent, shadow detail is very good, and there is no evidence of excessive digital manipulation.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The English 5.1 DTS HD-MA audio is outstanding, and the music in particular is given excellent separation and a wide, pleasing soundstage. Dialogue is mostly confined to the center channel and it is always clear and understandable, with English subtitles available for viewers who need them. The surround channels are effectively utilized to convey ambient sounds and help to immerse the viewer in the action.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
The extras on this Blu-ray disc are limited to a "making of" featurette and a number of deleted and extended scenes.
Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
"The Making of American Hustle" has director David O. Russell and all of the major participants talking about how the film was conceived and brought to the screen, with particular emphasis on character development (Christian Bale gained 40 pounds to play the role of Irving). This featurette is in high definition and has a running time of approximately 17 minutes.
Eleven deleted and extended scenes are fascinating to watch, and it would not surprise me if some of them show up in a Director's Cut some day.
Sony has included trailers for The Monuments Men, Inside Llewyn Davis, Pompeii, and Captain Phillips.
This Blu-ray set also includes a DVD of the feature and an UltraViolet code which is valid until 12/31/2017.
American Hustle is a dazzling and entertaining film which can be enjoyed multiple times. It is a keeper and is highly recommended. It is currently available for less than $20.00 at Amazon
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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