American Hustle (Blu-ray) (2013)

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Released 16-Apr-2014

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Trailer-Inside Llewyn Davis; Mandela; Secrets & Lies
Featurette-Making Of-The Making of American Hustle
Deleted Scenes
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 137:56
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By David O. Russell
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Christian Bale
Bradley Cooper
Amy Adams
Jeremy Renner
Jennifer Lawrence
Louis C.K.
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Danny Elfman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (640Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

“Everyone Hustles To Survive”

     An almost unrecognisable Christian Bale is Irving Rosenfeld, a paunchy balding Jewish con-man, who we first see covering his bald pate with glue and hair in his New York City hotel room. He has made money after taking over his father’s glass repair business and creating demand by smashing windows. He also runs dry-cleaning shops and sells fake paintings on the side. Rosenfeld’s latest and most lucrative scam is taking deposits to secure loans that never eventuate. The smooth taking shyster is an expert in manipulating people, and has absolutely no conscience in relieving desperate people of their last dollars. His pool party encounter with the impossibly gorgeous but just as ruthless Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is the beginning of a partnership of love and business that could bring about his downfall. The pair share a common interest in Duke Ellington, escaping their dreary past, making money, and living the dream. In Irving Sydney sees an ambitious and smooth talking route to a fantasy existence, whereas Sydney is an escape for Irving from his high-maintenance wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). Although still married Rosalyn and Irving are very much separated, with Rosalyn clinging desperately to Irving who just can’t quite make the break.

     The pair become a formidable scamming team with Sydney adopting the alias of English socialite Edith Greensly. Unknown to them however is FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who has been investigating the pair secretly and who catches them in a sting which could result in serious jail time. DiMaso however has greater ambitions, and envisages using the skills of Rosenfeld and Prosser to catch some big time crooks and corrupt politicians. Irving and Sydney/Edith agree to help DiMaso in return for lenient sentencing in their fraud trial.

     Their first target is Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) who is amenable to crooked dealings if it is for the good of his citizens and the rebuilding of Atlantic City. The stakes rise however as mobsters like Tellegio (Robert De Niro) and Federal congressmen become involved in the sting. When it becomes clear that Richie has fallen for Edith the interpersonal relationships become strained as the trio spiral further into their web of deceit which could end in tears and concrete boots.

     Writer-director David O. Russell (with co-writer Eric Singer) has crafted a sting movie that is entertaining, gritty, sexy, and personal. The main protagonists are often portrayed talking from their own point of view and in an explanatory fashion (as in Goodfellas). In a series of flashbacks we see the sting on Carmine in progress and the conflict between Sydney/Edith, Irving and Richie exposed. The characters describe their ambitions, their past and their desires. Sydney notes Irving’s paunchy belly and extravagant comb-over but is attracted to his confidence…. “He was who he was. He didn’t care”. Sydney and Irving share a vision of a “better, elegant future” with a dream to “become anyone else other than who I was”. Similarly Richie dreams to reach the big time but his fantasies become intertwined with the Edith he thinks he knows, and not the Sydney who she really is. Rosalyn can’t accept that Irving doesn’t love her and dreams that they will become a happy family again. In a reference to the “Abscam” FBI operation from the late 1970s, Russell starts the movie with the admission that "some of this actually happened", and then proceeds to entrap the viewer into a character study of four people under the ruse of a sting movie. That is Russell’s con job on us.

     As set in the 1970s American Hustle is fastidiously accurate to that time and place with a few humorous but subtle homages to the era. There is the loud clothing, plunging necklines, wide ties, big glasses, afro hair, comb-overs and disco music. If the first thing you thought of was Boogie Nights then I don’t think that’s a coincidence. There is even a wall mounted poster of Burt Reynolds in a background shot. The script as written by Russell is an absolute gem. Not only is it clever and witty and thoughtful and humorous, it is full of killer quotes. Take this description of Rosalyn by Irving “She was the Picasso of passive-aggressive karate”… or this one from Sydney to Irving, “Everybody at the bottom crosses paths eventually in a pool of desperation and you're waiting for them...”. The recurring ice fishing story from Richie’s boss Thorson (Louis C.K.) is another classic example and an instance where something totally irrelevant becomes a linking point. To everyone’s frustration the punch line of the anecdote is never revealed, (but you can find the answer on the net if you look).

     The acting is first rate with Bale absolutely nailing it as the charismatic but flawed Rosenfeld. Putting on those kilos just for the film rather than using a prosthetic is an example of his dedication to the character. His transformation is not quite as extreme as for The Machinist, but nevertheless can’t have been easy – especially in getting those kilos off again. Adams exudes just the right amount of scheming charm and sexiness in her con within a con character. Whenever she is on screen you can’t help but look at her. Cooper and Renner are similarly effective but Lawrence almost steals the show with a loose-cannon portrayal that is indulgent, gorgeous and unhinged. She is a class actor that made a role which could have been subservient into something to savour. Watch out also for support actors from TV production Boardwalk Empire. I guess the Atlantic City connection was too strong to ignore.

     American Hustle is a complexly layered character study that is lavish, intelligent and a hell of a lot of fun.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Video is presented in the theatrical aspect of 2.35:1 and in 1080p. Everything about this transfer is excellent from the fine detail to accurate colours to film-like texture. Being the ‘70s an effort is made to make the colours bold and vibrant but as a contrast some sets are also drab and muted. Not everything in the ‘70s was fun, games and disco. Black levels are excellent with the details in dark scenes remaining easy to see. Close ups show fine facial detail with a natural skin tone. Grain levels were just enough to notice but also gave a nice natural look to the video. There are no faults to speak of leaving American Hustle as a fine representation of high definition video.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Default audio is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio at around 1600 Kb/s. There is also a stereo descriptive audio Dolby Digital track at 640 Kb/s. Being a dialogue driven film it is most important that speech is easy to hear and clear in delivery. Mostly this is the case, but there are enough muffled exchanges to require subtitles on a couple of occasions. The Jersey and New York accents also didn’t help this at times. With most of the audio front centred the main surround activity came from the frequent musical interludes. Of special note is the disco scene between Richie and Edith where Donna Summer’s I Feel Love really rocks the room and introduces some much enjoyed bass. Love that disco music. City sounds are used subtlety to enhance the atmosphere with dogs barking, car horns beeping, and the general hubbub of city living. Danny Elfman’s score is well used, and excerpts from jazz recordings including Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald amongst the ‘70s pop music make this a very pleasing aural experience.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

     The menu featured looping audio with animated background.

Movie Trailers (appearing before the main menu)

     All HD video and Dolby Digital audio at 640 Kb/s. Inside Llewyn Davis (1:54); Mandela (2:24); Secrets & Lies (1:36).

Featurette: The Making of American Hustle (16:40)

     HD video and Dolby Digital audio at 640 Kb/s. Russell and the producers describe the characters and their love story as an adjunct to events around the “Abscam” sting. Includes Russell's vision for the film and the selection of actors and how they would be portrayed. Apart from David O. Russell this includes contributions from producers Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, and Jonathon Gordon, actors Bale, Adams, Laurence, Cooper and Renner, costume designer Michael Wilkinson, production designer Judy Becker.

Deleted and Extended Scenes (22:24)

     All HD video and Dolby Digital audio at 640 Kb/s. Selectable by scene or as play all: Cry British, Brick, Carmine On Stage Singing, Backhand Like a Whip, Bad Sign, Stoop to Conquer, Live and Let Die, Evil Ways, Carmine on the Street, Richie is Duped, and Carmine Returns Home.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region A release appears identical apart from language options. Also available are Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combos.

Summary

     American Hustle is probably the most enjoyable film I’ve seen in the last twelve months. I don’t think it a coincidence that a prior favourite, Silver Linings Playbook shares director, writer and many of the actors. Although being nominated for ten Oscar gongs Hustle came away with an empty bag. Rest assured though, this movie is terrific, and really a must see if you enjoy a witty thoughtful script and great acting. As a bonus the video and audio is great although a few more extras would have been nice. A director’s commentary would be most welcome. In summary - I loved it.

     The video quality is very good.

     The audio quality is very good.

     Extras are fair.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mike B (read my bio)
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge Audio 751bd, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-58PZ850A. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
Amplificationdenon AVR-4311 pre-out to Elektra Theatron 7 channel amp
SpeakersB&W LCR600 centre and 603s3 mains, Niles in ceiling surrounds, SVS PC-Ultra Sub, Definitive Technology Supercube II Sub

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