American Hustle (Blu-ray)

June 5, 2014 6 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 2.40:1 AVC HD image is indicative of what most all new to Blu-ray films look and it’s a near perfect-looking transfer. 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 DTS HD Master Audio 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?

For a film that garnered 10 Academy Award nominations (granted, it came away empty-handed), this Blu-ray is severely lacking in supplements.

  • 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.
  • DVD/UltraViolet Copy

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