American Hustle: 10th Anniversary Edition (Steelbook, Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive partner Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild F.B.I. Agent, Richie DiMaso, who pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and the Mafia.

May 21, 2024 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

Let’s start with this: American Hustle is more than a little overrated and not as good as many of the critics (not to mention the various nominations and awards it’s won) would have you believe. While it did improve (slightly) on a second viewing, I still am somewhat puzzled at how it garnered such praise. The film is often meandering and the plot is overly complicated and never seems to let us in on the fun. It’s one of those films where there’s a lot going on, but nothing really happens. There’s clearly trying to follow in the vein of Goodfellas and some of Martin Scorsese’s finest work. The problem here is that the characters hardly register and it lacks a personal connection with the audience. A lot of the ingredients are here. 1) A fine director – David O’ Russel has made many great films including Silver Linings PlaybookThe Fighter and Three Kings, to name a few. 2) A talented cast – You’ve got Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner. 3) A fairly intriguing setup – While not overly original, it could and should have been much more memorable than the final product. The pieces of the puzzle are all here, but nothing quite gels.

Set in the late 1970’s, the film stars Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld. He and his partner in crime Sydney (Amy Adams) are both all too good at conning people. They’ve been caught by F.B.I. Agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) and he offers them the chance to do a number of undercover stings to avoid going to jail. Bale throws himself into the role here by his extreme weight gain and a pretty hideous comb-over. You can’t say the guy doesn’t earn his keep. His wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) is a different matter all together. She’s harsh with her words, controlling and nearly burns the house down when she can’t figure out how to use a microwave. I admit that I’m a fan of Lawrence, but she seems a little outmatched here working with such fine actors. I don’t think she gives a bad performance, but it’s as if she’s trying too hard. The same can be said of much of this film. Everything is so overdone here, something just feels off about the whole thing. Renner is wasted as the mayor who is thrown in the middle of all this madness. O’ Russel gets the little things right such as wardrobes and the overall look and style of the 70’s, but the plot didn’t hold my attention and I grew tired of the constant bickering between the characters here. It’s hard to love a film when it’s so in love with itself. There’s a scene where the Lawrence character cleans the house while singing “Live and Let Die”, the whole thing is ridiculous and kind of hard to watch. I had every intention of enjoying Hustle, but ultimately, it left me unchanged.

Video: How’s it look?

Visually-speaking, American Hustle certainly looks superb on Blu-ray. The 2.39:1 HEVC image looked pretty darn good when it came out on Blu-ray. We’ve now got a “director approved” 4K transfer that ups the ante even more. From Christian Bale’s horrific (or amazing, depending on your point of view) combover to the sparkles in the dresses, the detail is off the charts.  Do you want to see every curl in Bradley Cooper’s tightly-wound mane…because you can. Colors are a bit on the saturated side, but it’s to be expected. Black levels are strong and consistent as well. As I’ve said before, this looks just as good as you’d think it would.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The Dolby Atmos track plays a prominent part in the film and, as we might expect, it delivers on most every level. If there was ever any doubt that Russell was “paying homage” to a Martin Scorsese film, it’s abundantly evident in the soundtrack. Songs of the late 70’s can be heard in all of their uncompressed glory, vocals are smooth, deep and rich as well. Surrounds chime in at key moments and make for some nice ambiance. This is an all-around solid-sounding track.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Disc One (4K)

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – Not to be confused with the deleted and extended scenes found on the Blu-ray, we do get a new feature…in the form of more deleted and extended scenes. I don’t know what the selling point is, but I suppose fans of the film will enjoy nearly 15 minutes more of these.
  • Theatrical Trailer

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – Eleven in all, none of which really add a lot to the film (clearly why they were dropped/edited to begin with).
  • The Making of American Hustle – The standard EPK which has some interviews with the director and cast and crew members. We learn of how and why the film was made, the exuberance of the cast and their high hopes for the film’s success.

The Bottom Line

A decade later I like this film a little more. Not much, but just barely. I still find it pretentious, but for a film that garnered 10 Academy Award nominations and won none of them might be somewhat telling. Sony’s new 4K offering certainly gives us the best-looking version of the film along with a new Atmos soundtrack and additional deleted and extended scenes. It checks just enough boxes to warrant a purchase for die hard fans.

Disc Scores