When it comes to its balancing of plot threads, multiple characters and multi-genre balancing, Amsterdam buckles under its own weight throughout.
WRITTEN BY JACK RANSOM / OCTOBER 10, 2022
The latest from director David O’Russell, who once again assembles an all-star cast of talent to help bring his screenplay to life. Amsterdam is set in the 1930s, and sees three friends (Christian Bale, John David Washington & Margot Robbie) witness a murder, are framed for it, and uncover one of the most outrageous plots in American history.
Surprisingly receiving a critical lashing (at time of writing it sits on 34% on Rotten Tomatoes), which personally I think is a bit too harsh. There is no denying that this is the biggest culmination of on-screen talent this year. Amsterdam also gains points for feeling like an ‘event movie’ due to its large scale historical backdrop and lavishly crafted production design. However, when it comes to its balancing of plot threads, multiple characters and multi-genre balancing, it does buckle under its own weight throughout.
Frustratingly it’s a consistent tug of war between the elements that do work particularly effectively and the parts that don’t which largely renders the film as simply just fine. Easily the highlight of the narrative is the core leading trio friendship. There’s a bristling sense of optimism, lightheartedness and care to their relationship which is significantly carried by the performances. The eccentric spiralling of the plot in the final act is fun, but unfortunately its prior two acts are simply overstuffed and convoluted, with the film never being funny enough to be an outright comedy or thrilling enough in its mystery.
The film has a meticulously crafted and lavish production design. It’s slick, glossy in its presentation and presents a myriad of costumes, locales and an immersive world that effectively transports you back to the 30’s. It ticks off a lot of this genre’s traits in terms of its editing techniques and scene transitions: freeze frames, time jumps, a fourth wall breaking narration context giver and montages are all implemented here to solid effect.
Bale is certainly the highlight here. He makes Burt a thoroughly likeable, good spirited and suitably cooky protagonist. Accompanied by the suave and composed Washington and Robbie’s quick-thinking, creative artist and nurse. Where do we start with the supporting cast. Of course De Niro is a highlight, Anya-Taylor Joy’s & Rami Malek’s effectively snooty, off-putting Voze couple, Mike Myers & Michael Shannon’s wacky undercover agents and lastly Matthias Schoenaerts & Mel Fair’s bumbling Detective’s probably got the most chuckles from me.
Amsterdam is a decent watch but unfortunately doesn’t live up to the calibre of its cast. In all honesty there is simply too much it tries to balance, in turn it becomes spread too thin and never wholly excels in any particular genre implementation. However the performances are strong, the film is stylish and the production design is fantastic.