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HOME MOVIES

By Karen Martin

This article was published March 21, 2014 at 2:20 a.m.

American Hustle, directed by David O. Russell

American Hustle, directed by David O. Russell (R, 138 minutes)

David O. Russell’s audaciously trashy American Hustle is a bit of mess; the less attention we pay to the confidence scams and schemes performed by the central characters, the better off we’ll be. And the less we know about the actual Abscam the more likely we may be to accept this whimsical tour of the late disco era.

Better to just pay your money and take the ride, to laugh and then be strangely moved by this funny, affecting movie about the pursuit of the American Dream and the odd-looking creatures Russell has assembled for his latest ensemble play.

Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld is a flabby, toupee-wearing striver with the appetites and nerves of a big operator, a crook as well as a genuine romantic. When he meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who has come to New York to reinvent herself, he falls hard and fast.

The two embark on an unlikely scam that has them feeding off the desperation of other American hustlers who can’t obtain a loan through conventional means. Their operation brings them into the orbit of Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), an ambitious FBI agent who, once he has hooked his fish, puts them to work on implementing his own sting, in which seven members of Congress will be caught on videotape taking bribes.

The point of the film is the way these patently ridiculous characters eventually cohere into something like real people. It’s something to see. With Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Robert De Niro.

Blu-ray and DVD bonus materials include “The Making of American Hustle,” a behind-the-scenes featurette with filmmakers and cast members that seeks to explain why they were captivated by the story and its characters. Also included are more than 20 minutes of deleted and extended scenes.

Frozen (PG, 102 minutes) A vibrant musical animated adventure about the power of sisterhood in which fearless optimist Anna (voice of Kristen Bell), with the aid of mountain man Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer Sven, sets off on an epic journey to find her sister Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped their kingdom in eternal winter. The ending is not what you’d expect. With voices of Josh Gad, Ciaran Hinds; directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (PG-13, 141 minutes) An earnest and handsomely photographed bio-pic of Nelson Mandela’s remarkable life from growing up in a rural village through 27 years in prison to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. With Idris Elba, Naomie Harris; directed by Justin Chadwick.

Kill Your Darlings (R, 104 minutes) A 1944 murder draws together future Beat Generation poets Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster) in their early college days in a twisty, unstructured yet evocative trip through life’s violent back roads in a search for self-actualization.

The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was an official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Venice Days International Award. With Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen; directed by John Krokidas.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes an “On the Red Carpet” featurette, showcasing the film’s talent at the Toronto festival, deleted scenes, another featurette titled “In Conversation With Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan,” a Q&A session with director/co-writer Krokidas and co-writer Austin Bunn, and commentary featuring Radcliffe, DeHaan, Krokidas and Bunn.

MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 03/21/2014

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