By Keith Walther | Rose Law Group Reporter
In what will likely be considered the biggest disappointment of the year, “Amsterdam” fails to live up to its expectations. Boasting a cast of five Oscar nominees, three of whom won, and a 5-time Oscar nominated writer/director, this film should have been a smashing success but instead becomes a muddled mess.
The story centers around three inseparable friends, Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale), Harold Woodman (John David Washington), and Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie). They solidify a pact in Amsterdam shortly after World War I to always protect each other no matter what. This pact is put to the test in the 1930s when Burt and Harold witness a horrendous murder on the streets of New York and become wrongfully accused of the murder. As the three seek to clear their name and find the real killers, they begin unravelling a much larger plot that threatens the American government.
Writer/director David O. Russell has known nothing but success in his career with films like “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “American Hustle,” all three of which earned him Oscar nominations. “Amsterdam,” on the other hand, may only succeed in securing him Razzie nominations. Maybe the eight-year absence from filmmaking has made Russell rusty.
Russell creates a movie that completely lacks identity, awkwardly and abruptly shifting from drama to comedy to romance to mystery thriller without spending enough time in any area to develop it accordingly. There is very little continuity between the scenes, resulting in a frenetically paced and disjointed story. Basically, the film runs in chaotic circles attempting to resolve plot holes that it unnecessarily creates for itself, leading to an audience that has become disinterested. The story is based on true events, which makes it more of a head scratcher as to how David O. Russell could possibly run this compelling story into the ground. At least the art direction, hair/make-up, costumes, and cinematography were all professional quality.
Having also written the screenplay, Russell is also to blame for the poorly written dialogue. The dialogue is unrealistic and overexplanatory and demeans the audiences’ intelligence, having the characters wordily detailing every action and feeling. While it is true that a good cast can elevate a poorly written screenplay, unfortunately there were too many stars in “Amsterdam,” forcing Russell to allot enough screen time for each character, many of whom proved to be unnecessary and thereby distracting from the main plot.
Out of the entire star-studded cast, Christian Bale was the only actor able to overcome the poorly written dialogue to deliver a very good performance, giving depth to his war-scarred character. Bale is a consummate professional, always going to great lengths to remain in character during filming. He had to stop talking to fellow cast member Chris Rock on this set, because he was too funny, and it was distracting. The rest of the cast could learn something from his commitment.
Margot Robbie and John David Washington play the other lead characters who are madly in love with each other. Both are incredibly talented but fail miserably at achieving any kind of on-screen chemistry to make their love believable. Anya Taylor-Joy, Michael Shannon, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro, Zoe Saldana, Mike Myers, and Chris Rock round out the cast, all of which providing lackluster and forgettable performances.
“Amsterdam” is a shocking disappointment and serves as proof that having some of the best talent in the business is not always enough to making a great film. Skip this movie, unless you’re in need of a good nap.
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