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A fictional film set in the seductive world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock our nation, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld, who along with his equally cunning British partner and lover Sydney Prosser is forced to work for a wild unhinged FBI agent Richie DiMaso. DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that's as dangerous as it is enchanting. Renner is Carmen Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down.
For more about American Hustle and the American Hustle Blu-ray release, see American Hustle Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 8, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K.
Director: David O. Russell
» See full cast & crew
American Hustle Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 8, 2014
There's an old adage that says "honesty is the best policy." Never has that been proven more true than in the story within American Hustle, Director David O. Russell's (Silver Linings Playbook, Three Kings) Oscar-nominated film that centers on con artists forced to pull off their biggest job yet when they're approached by the feds and given an ultimatum: reel in the bigger fish or reel off a few years behind bars. Cons, corruption, wild swings in emotion, love, lust, greed, spite, naiveté, and almost all variety of human emotions and dire consequences give the story shape and purpose. Yet for all of the interpersonal chaos and all of those broad narrative pieces, the film is just as much an intimate character examination that exposes man's drive on both sides of the law and the murky middle ground that's so often the real point of contention between the sides experiencing the pulling force that exposes both to the other's direction. Through it all is an oftentimes humorous rhythm and an only slightly bloated advancement through one of the year's most visually appealing, dramatically satisfying, and all-around fun films.
Pudgy, bald, and supremely self-confident lifelong con artist Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) finds himself working with a woman who's every bit his match, a smart and passionate fellow Duke Ellington fan named Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who, for the purposes of their cons, poses an an English well-to-do named Edith Greensly. The two also become deeply romantically involved, despite Irving's rocky marriage to the hotheaded Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). One day, Irving's and Sydney's con target turns out to be an FBI agent named Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) who forces them into a high-stakes con game in hopes of reeling in some of the nation's most corrupt politicians. Their main target is Camden, New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). As the trio falls deeper into the muck and the con becomes evermore elaborate, expensive, and dangerous than they ever could have imagined, the stakes explode and the only thing more dangerous than the situation might be their volatile interpersonal relationships.
American Hustle expertly blends its superficial visuals and its core story themes. The film's harmony is perhaps its key focal point. The picture paints a believable and oftentimes lightly comical portrait of its era -- the styles, the places, the things -- but it smartly never emphasizes them, instead focusing on building everything else in them and around them, namely the characters that give shape and meaning and entertainment value to that world. Within that world, the picture traverses a fascinating juxtaposition, one that explores the con man's servitude, forced to operate on his own turf but not under his own rules. The result is both as expected and not at all as expected as the story blossoms out of control for all involved, as the characters maneuver through a rocky, dangerous path lined with humorous subtexts, interpersonal chaos, and mass inward and outward confusion and conflict, all while several people struggle to find their place in the world through material gain and romance, neither of which ultimately fall under their own control. The film is beautifully chaotic but at the same time steady and focused, a masterstroke of filmmaking that, even as it occasionally feels a bit bloated and self-indulgent after its brilliant opening act, maintains a rhythm, appeal, and novelty that sets it apart from most anything else out there.
Digging much deeper than that harmony between the pinpoint period recreations, character follies, and story high jinks is a somewhat darker and more mentally intensive tale about ambition and drive both inside the law and outside of it and the resultant conflicting nature of man as he's wooed by materialism and passion and between right and wrong. The film explores how man manipulates life, how life manipulates desires, and how those desires come back around to the man for either good or for evil. It's a story about small-time bad dealings that spiral terribly out of control, in parallel with the characters whose own small-time operations, ambitions, ill-mannered cons, and well-meaning law enforcement all become a jumbled mess of inward and outward human chaos that doesn't merely shuffle the playing field but rather makes it nearly unrecognizable by the time the film ends. Through it all, the film thoughtfully explores a number of deeper themes that are affected by positive and negative transformations, realization, and emotions. The film's beauty comes in how easy it is to explore and appreciate these themes but also get caught up in its more glamorous story and visual superficialities. American Hustle serves as an example of the effectiveness of layered filmmaking that can be both deeply insightful and superficially fun.
At the center of it all, though, is a superb character roster and performances up to the challenge of not just bringing that roster to life, but inhabiting them. The film's unquestioned highlight is Christian Bale in his most impressive physical transformation and performance since The Machinist. While not quite on par with his haunting effort in that film, the Dark Knight star is barely recognizable fifty pounds heavier and sporting a bad combover on top of a cheap toupee. The confidence with which he carries the character and the charisma he displays in every scene is greater than that even of Bruce Wayne. It's a stunning effort on every level, a marvel of a physical effort that should in no way mask the work beyond the surface. Though Bale didn't win the Best Actor Oscar, his work is certainly of a high enough caliber that a win wouldn't have come as a surprise. Bale's co-stars are brilliant, too. The film is packed with top-flight efforts from Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner in the film's other key roles.
American Hustle Blu-ray, Video Quality
American Hustle looks fantastic on Blu-ray. Sony's 1080p transfer dazzles in every scene, revealing a crisp, accurate, film-like texture in every shot. Image clarity is outstanding. Light grain accentuates the film's impeccably defined details, showing with razor-sharp crispness and definition the finest facial and clothing nuances. Likewise, objects all around the frame -- from detailed artwork to wooden textures -- look natural and firmly so. Colors are bold and exciting. The transfer showcases a large variety of bright, cheery shades in most every frame. Clothing is particularly loud, but hotel walls, furniture, and appliances also stand apart. There's a slight warmth to the palette, reflected in skin tones, but nothing particularly bothersome. Black levels are enjoyably deep and inky. The image suffers from no discernible technical problems. This is a marvel of an image from Sony.
American Hustle Blu-ray, Audio Quality
American Hustle's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack works well at every turn. Though the opening Jazz notes aren't quite so aggressive as they might should be, they're smooth and accurate, nicely detailed, and enjoyably spacious. Music only improves from there. The opening titles are richly delivered and effortlessly enveloping. It's a classic, smooth sound, presented at just the right volume at reference level and solidified by a strong and balanced low end. The track finds a more dynamic presence at a dance club scene midway through the film that blares classic disco notes into the listening area and effortlessly transforms the soundstage into a dance stage. The track produces plenty of solid and naturally implemented ambient sound effects where required, particularly in the form of city din, footsteps, and even the gentle rolling waters flowing from a fountain in one shot. Paramount to the track, however, is dialogue. The spoken word plays accurately and smoothly from the center, demonstrating no hiccups from a natural presence and rhythm. All around, this track is a solid performer and a winner.
American Hustle Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
American Hustle contains a deluge of deleted scenes and a making-of featurette.
American Hustle Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
American Hustle wasn't the year's best picture, not at the Oscars and not on paper. It may be the year's most complete picture, however, a joyful yet serious film with complex characters and deep themes built into a buoyant period exterior. One may enjoy the film as a well constructed and endlessly entertaining superficial time killer or as a more thoughtful character study. Either way -- or both ways -- it's an unforgettable experience and one of the year's must-see movies. Sony's Blu-ray release of American Hustle features brilliant video and audio. Supplements are limited in number but satisfying in quality. Highly recommended.
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American Hustle Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: March 18-25 - March 16, 2014
For the week of March 18th, Sony Home Entertainment is bringing David O. Russell's acclaimed American Hustle to Blu-ray. Other Tuesday titles include Disney's Saving Mr. Banks, the Academy Award-winning Frozen, and the Weinstein Company's Mandela: Long Walk to ...
• American Hustle Blu-ray Officially Announced - February 3, 2014
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has officially announced that it will release on Blu-ray David O. Russell's (Silver Linings Playbook) latest project, American Hustle (2013), starring Christian Bale, Robert De Niro, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, ...
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