With its star-studded cast and fast-paced plot, Amsterdam has all the elements to be successful. It has, however, bombed at box office, being beaten by Shawn Mendes’ singing reptilian flick, Lyle Lyle Crocodile.
This comedy-thriller directed by David O. Russell does not sit well alongside his other critically acclaimed films like American Hustle (2013) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012), but falls rather short with its overly abundant plot and detached dialogue.
Amsterdam is marketed as a “partially true story” loosely based on the Business Plot of 1933. It centres around a trio of outcasts who find themselves entangled in a political mystery much bigger than them. Christian Bale plays Burt, an eccentric veteran doctor who, with his fellow veteran lawyer Harold (John David Washington), and artist Valerie (Margot Robbie), sets out to clear their names after being accused of murder. This ensemble film features many familiar faces, with Anya Taylor Joy, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro, and even Taylor Swift making appearances. Despite the impressive collection of stars, Amsterdam lacked substance.
The film’s style is reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s with quirky characters and dreamlike shots but lacks the quality that Anderson’s films provide. It was difficult to connect with the characters because of their detached dialogue and questionable acting in some cases (although Taylor Swift, in her brief appearance, gave a convincing performance as Liz Meekins).
The chemistry between characters is also questionable, especially when Valerie and Harold are meant to be the great love story of the film but fail to make a convincing couple. With the fast-paced style of the film, their relationship is undeveloped and surface-level. Although they have a few romantic scenes together, they always feel forced and stilted, making it hard for the audience to root for them.
Amsterdam is an ambitious film with its convoluted plot being set in multiple locations bouncing between New York, Amsterdam, and Belgium. Although Amsterdam was meant to be quirky, it needed more structure to make it work and stay interesting throughout. The swift nature of the film is initially captivating but eventually becomes tiring.
Not to mention the ending that was meant to be a dramatic showdown falling flat due to the abundance of characters and the ever-building plot becoming too confusing. However, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously and remains light-hearted through most of it.
David O. Russell is shrouded in controversy which may suggest why, despite its stellar cast, Amsterdam has somewhat fallen under the radar. Russell has had several allegations made against him, including claims that he is aggressive and creates a hostile work environment. This has led to people questioning why so many A-list celebrities have chosen to work with him and begs the question: was this film a mere cash grab?
Amsterdam is an enjoyable film whose quirkiness borders on chaos; but, it is a reminder that it takes more than bombarding audiences with famous actors to make a great film.
Amsterdam was released on October 7 and is currently playing in UK cinemas.