American Hustle (UK - BD RB)
Marcus has a blast with O'Russell's latest Oscar nominated flim on Blu-ray.
Con-duo Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his lover Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are caught by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) and forced to work for him as he takes on a one man mission on corruption in local and nationwide government. As the operation develops the trio cross paths with ex-mafia hitman (Robert De Niro), a New Jersey Mayor (Jeremy Renner) and the even more unpredictably, Irving's Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). American Hustle sees director David O. Russell playing in a Martin Scorsese style toybox but what's the result?
Just before The Wolf of Wall Street hit our screens, American Hustle was being praised as the big Oscar contender because of its ensemble cast and its crime and corruption tale. After The Wolf of Wall Street hit there suddenly seemed to be a surge of anti- American Hustle talk around the web and there seemed to be an odd feeling that you could only like one or other on the run up to the Oscars. To lay down my thoughts, I have to say I loved American Hustle on first viewing and even though The Wolf of Wall Street is my preferred film out of the two, this second viewing of American Hustle had me loving the film for all the same reasons I did the first time out.
The key to my enjoyment here, well beyond O’Russell’s tight hold on his ever twisting but fairly loose tale is the sheer amount of fun the cast are having. The actors' enjoyment of their characters is felt in every scene. Bale, doing a pretty obvious spin on De Niro-isms at times has the actor feeling very comfortable and his usual intense on screen persona is replaced with a much warmer performance than normal, much akin to what O’Russell managed to get out of him in The Fighter. Amy Adams is just plain stunning in her super sexy, strong, yet vulnerable spin on a ballsy con-artist. Her costume choices are all striking in their own ways and have had much hype but it's the subtle stuff in her eyes and her responses to the other cast members that really makes her so memorable here and it adds yet another facet to Adams' incredibly varied filmography because we've never seen her like this.
Bradley Cooper keeps getting better. I never much liked the actor when he first started hitting our big screens but what with a fantastic turn in Silver Linings Playbook and now this, it’s getting more difficult not to regard him as a big player in the world of movies. He is absolutely committed to this bullshitting smart mouthed FBI agency who just isn't letting go of the possibilities his recent collar might lead to. He’s manic, funny, charming and the sort of douche bag you can’t help but love in film. It doesn't stop there though. Jeremy Renner (who didn't get as much hype as the rest of the cast) is probably the best I've ever seen him. His character is meant to be a likable guy and he totally sells that. He has less to do than the others but you really feel for this character as the plot unravels and he brings a lot to what could have been a phoned in performance really.
Last up is Jennifer Lawrence. For a large part of the film, she’s playing outside of the core characters but she eats up every scene she’s in and it makes her every bit as key to the film as the rest of the crowd. She’s borderline insane in this role but it's adorable. Argumentative, unpredictable and she spits out dialogue that will always put a smile on your face. Once again O’Russell seems to get so much more out of this young actress who can’t seem to put a foot wrong of late and this entire ensemble make American Hustle shine.
But what of the plot? Well, it twists and it turns, the focus shifts between characters and while it’s sometimes more comedic than dramatic (I bloody love the Louis C.K. scenes for this) the film drives along with a killer soundtrack and when twists come they work because the characters are so well used to make them work. I know a lot of people are questioning if David O’Russell has become a tad Oscar hungry with his choices of late and that's watered him down but I'm just not feeling that at all. This felt a lot like his lesser known I Heart Huckabees to me (which I adore). His sensibilities with characters bouncing off of once another, the cheeky grin with all of the films crossing over avenues and a underlining sense of madness feels like this director is taking all of the great stuff he’s done in the past and can now play with them with ease within any world he’s interesting in playing in. Sure American Hustle is a fairly routine tale but O'Russell is all over it and he more than makes it his own.
The 70s design of the film look good but not always great in this HD presentation. Oranges and yellows are prominent with a lot of browns replacing many of the usual blacks and it all makes for a warm affair. There’s a fair bit of intentional grain throughout to add to the 70s style, though its never overbearing and colours can often bleed but it’s all very much part of the film's design. Some details are crisp, especially in close ups, others are soft and sometimes have more of a DVD feel at times. Of course the glow of the film and the warm lighting keep this solidly in the realms of HD and some of the brighter scenes can look outright staggering. All in all this wasn't quite as sharp as I’d imagined it would look on home release, with softer elements than I expected but it all works within the world of the film and while the film doesn’t leap off of the screen, its warm colours certainly makes it glow off of it.
The Scorsese style voice overs sounds fantastic in the centre speaker. Strong and crisp, they have a natural sound to the recording that sits differently to the wider dialogue in the film. The music on the soundtrack is the show off element of the track, sitting strong in all the speakers and filling the room no matter the musical style. Donna Summer's ‘I Feel Love’ is a particularly great, filling the room with its disco sonic range and beginning a little montage of music that grows right up to a ‘Delilah’ peak courtesy of Tom Jones.
Sometimes in wider sets, such as long FBI corridors, shoutier dialogue gets a little muffled but in a realistic way, so it’s certainly not a fault or a failing of the track and the same can be said for the lower, mumbled Bale dialogue from time to time but these are small things in the grand schemes because the combo of dialogue and a great selection of music on the soundtrack, this is a dynamic, full sounding track that has some great music based show off moments.
The Making of (16:37 HD) is a nice little overview with the cast and crew but not really long enough to be considering in-depth. Outside of that, it’s just 11 Deleted Scenes. Most are alright but it does have a full length 'Live and Let Die' scene with Jennifer Lawrence house cleaning to the McCartney track in even wilder ways than what we see in the film. Fantastic stuff.
American Hustle doesn't seem to have the same good will it had towards it when it first hit, which to me is odd. It’s a solid piece of entertainment with a great cast having a whole lot of fun throughout. Sure the plot isn't focused on as much of the characters playing around with each other but O’Russell makes this all feel utterly intentional and he’s obviously having a blast with his cast in the frantic long con that’s on the verge of falling apart at every turn. The disc looks good in a retro kind of way, sounds great with its awesome soundtrack but the extras are a tad thin on the ground.
Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 28th April 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English HoH
Extras: Making of, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence
Genre: Crime and Drama
Length: 138 minutes
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