Starring: Christian Bale, John David Washington, Margot Robbie, Zoe Saldana, Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Rock, Robert De Niro, Rami Malek, Michael Shannon, Mike Myers, Timothy Olyphant, Taylor Swift, Alessandro Nivola, Andrea Riseborough, and Matthias Schoenaerts
Director: David O. Russell
The stacked cast does all it can to elevate a screenplay that feels empty, but Amsterdam does nothing more than squander its tremendous talent. I’m not sure what director David O. Russell was trying to accomplish in departing from his usually serious forays, but this experimentation with the outlandish falls flat. The mystery lacks tension, the love lacks heart, and the quirk lacks spark. It’s like Russell tried (and failed) to make a Wes Anderson film. At least in Anderson’s films you believe what’s on screen. It’s hard to believe much of anything in Amsterdam, even if its story is partially true.
Setting director controversy aside, Amsterdam is a colossal misfire from David O. Russell. Even with a cast as stacked as this, no fun or humor can be pulled out of an overly convoluted script that seems to care more about explaining itself than crafting characters we care about. Legendary cinematographer Emmanual Lubezki’s signature style feels entirely at odds with Russell’s directorial sensibilities too, and one can feel the performers stretching to make something out of this where nothing really exists. I suppose one could compliment Christian Bale’s performance and the production design, but even combined, they can’t hold this film together.
Director David O. Russell’s Amsterdam isn’t without some slightly quirky delights, but the interesting story at its core is so convolutedly told that the only feeling one truly comes away with is boredom. It attempts many things…humor, mystery, twists, emotion, preachy messaging…but none of them resonate, making the 134-minute movie feel much longer. The performances of the cast, an embarrassment of riches if there ever was one, are as great as they can be given the material (John David Washington notwithstanding - Hot Take: a terrible actor); however, like the story, they don’t leave a lasting impression. Ultimately, it’s one of 2022’s biggest misfires.
Even if you can get past the real-world actions of writer/director David O. Russell, Amsterdam is truly terrible despite an all-star cast that ranges from fully committed (Christian Bale, Anya Taylor-Joy) to outright sleepwalking (John David Washington). Some production values are pretty to look at, but this movie’s attempt at wacky dramedy fails horrifically, leaving an unfunny and dull affair. The result is a tonal disaster and muddled mess that bored and confused me with its increasingly convoluted plot. I truly hope Russell doesn’t work again after this, for many reasons.