New from Kevin Wozniak on Kevflix: Movie Review: Amsterdam


There is no denying David O. Russell’s success in the 2010s. Throughout that decade, Russell made four films, The Fighter in 2010, Silver Linings Playbook in 2012, American Hustle in 2013, and Joy in 2015. Each of these films grossed over $100 million at the worldwide box office and garnered tons of awards attention. All four films combined earned 26 Oscar nominations, three of them for Best Picture, five of them for Russell’s directing and writing, and twelve for the actors, including three wins for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in The Fighter and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook.

Russell became the director actors wanted to work with if they wanted any sort of awards attention and rightly so. Russell worked with incredibly talented casts and got great, sometimes career-best, performances out of them every time. His films also featured large ensembles, but Russell was able to wrangle everyone in, no matter how big or small the actor or part was, to have great, authentic chemistry together that helped the film’s plot and characters flow.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because Russell’s newest film, Amsterdam, is the exact opposite of everything that he succeeded at in the 2010s. If you watch Amsterdam, and I recommend you do not, and you then read the first two paragraphs about how good of a director Russell was in the 2010s and how well he worked with actors, you will think that I was either talking about another director or think that I am a liar. But that’s not

Like Russell’s previous films, Amsterdam features an amazing cast. Christian Bale, John David Washington, Margot Robbie, Rami Malek, Anya Taylor-Joy, Michael Shannon, Mike Meyers, Chris Rock, Andrea Riseborough, Zoe Saldana, Alessandro Nivola, Matthias Schoenaerts, Taylor Swift, and Robert De Niro round out the star-studded cast and you would think that a cast this talented, it would take a catastrophe for whatever film they are starring in to not work. And that’s exactly what we got.

Christian Bale (L), Margot Robbie (C), and John David Washington (R) in Amsterdam (20th Century Studios)
Christian Bale (L), Margot Robbie (C), and John David Washington (R) in Amsterdam (20th Century Studios)

There isn’t anything that works in Amsterdam. The film looks at three friends, played by Bale, Washington, and Robbie, who became close with one another while recovering in Amsterdam following World War I. While living in New York City, Bale’s Burt and Washington’s Harold witness a murder, are framed for it, and then try to clear their names while uncovering a crazy government conspiracy to overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt. There are a few side plots too, like Bale’s marriage issues, his running of a not-entirely-legal doctors office for war veterans, a love story between Washington and Robbie, and some other ones that didn’t seem to matter. For most of the film’s overlong two-hour-and-fourteen-minute runtime, none of it felt like it had any purpose. Each plot might have been interesting on its own, but there is so much going on and so many characters that no plot or character gets their proper development. And then when the movie decides to hammer home its message in the final act, it all comes too fast and doesn’t land on the emotional note it tries to. All you are left with is a giant shrug of the shoulders asking yourself, “that’s it?”

This biggest surprise and disappointment of Amsterdam comes from the cast. As stated earlier, Russell was an excellent director’s actor, churning out several great performances in his films while getting talented ensembles to work together in harmony. In Amsterdam, every single character and performance feels like they are in a different movie. There is no chemistry between any of the actors and you don’t buy into any of the relationships between the characters. The trio of friends played by Bale, Washington, and Robbie, whose relationship and bond become the focal point of the film, never come across as friends who have a life-long bond together. Some of the actors, like Bale, Robbie, and Taylor-Joy, go all out in their performances and might seem over-the-top compared to the performances of some of the other actors like Washington and De Niro, who at times felt like they were asleep onscreen or were reading their lines from cue cards held off-screen. There are a lot of talented actors in Amsterdam, but there is no chemistry or consistency in any of their performances.

Amsterdam is an example of a director on a level and scale that they could not handle. The budget, scale, and sets are all bigger than what Russell has worked with in the past. The number of characters and powerhouse actors is more than we usually see in a Russell movie, and the plot is overly complicated and features too many plots. It felt like Russell overdid himself here. Amsterdam, despite the glitz and glamour of its cast, is a real dud of a movie and one of the biggest disappointments of 2022.






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