With the American box office suffering from its lowest point since 9/11, David O. Russell’s film ‘Amsterdam’ had a prime opportunity to bring audiences back to the movie theaters for a film that flexes a big cast of quality actors…and Taylor Swift.
However, much like a Denver Broncos running back, ‘Amsterdam’ fumbles a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by marketing a fun high-tempo comedy and instead giving audiences another long-winded left-wing lecture soaked in nihilism.
‘Amsterdam’ is based on “The Business Plot”, which is a 1933 political conspiracy in the US that follows three friends: Dr. Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale), Burt’s friend and fellow war veteran Harold Woodsman (John David Washington), and French nurse named Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie) who are caught in the middle of a murder mystery.
After sustaining severe injuries fighting in World War I, Burt and Harold build a bond with Valerie and make a pact to be friends forever. But things change as the years go on, Burt and Harold are now suspects in the murder of a U.S. Senator’s daughter. In order to clear their name, they must unravel a conspiracy that stretches all the way back to Europe. The group realizes that there is a secret fascist society that has infiltrated nations across the world and is looking at the reality of world domination.
You may have gone into this film thinking that the tone will be far more fun or slapstick, but you were unfortunately wrong. The film’s title refers to a temporary Utopia that the characters experience right after the event of a brutal World War 1 battle. A place where everyone can live care free and don’t have to deal with the oppressive laws of World War 1 United States.
Utopia is short-lived as the film fails its audiences from a world-building standpoint. In the film that presents a small army of characters and cameos in a world that thrives on charisma, ‘Amsterdam’ is devoid of it. With an 80 million dollar production budget, the film wastes its money on having big names to drive ticket sales but fails to deliver any performances worthy of its 134-minute investment.
Chris Rock’s character is a good example of a character who is only in the film to remind audiences that 1930s America was racist and offers nothing more to the plot. Zoe Saldaña is in the film for plot convenience and to build a pseudo-romance with Christian Bale that goes nowhere.
Speaking of romantic chemistry, John David Washington and Margot Robbie have zero chemistry for a couple whose relationship is supposed to play a pivotal role in the story. Their relationship is used for social commentary on interracial relationships in America but they have no bond as a couple to even begin to sell the narrative they speak. Speaking of Washington, he is by far one of the worst characters in this film who is completely out of place with the tone of the film.
Speaking of bad narratives, in a film that is used to explain to audiences that “fascism is the enemy” is the audacity to lecture audiences about the danger of secret wealthy societies running the world and spreading evil but expecting you to believe that evil would be inspired by Adolf Hitler and not Karl Marx.
Other questionable decisions include the casting of Rami Malek as the brother of Valerie and Taylor Swift who is just awful as an actress. Robert De Niro gives a great performance as General Gil Dillenbeck that stands out better than anyone else in the movie including the performance of Bale.
Amsterdam really had the opportunity to be an entertaining period piece but instead decided to go the route of mixing Hollywood’s left-wing platitudes in a powder keg until the entire film blows up in their faces.
Hollywood is in the mud right now with audiences and films like this aren’t going to bring anybody back.