OPINION: ‘Amsterdam’ disappoints despite stellar cast


“Amsterdam” is a dramedy directed and written by David O. Russell. Set in 1930s New York, it follows the adventures of Dr. Bert Berendsen (Christian Bale), Harold Woodman (John David Washington) and Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie) as they try to solve the murder of a friend and his daughter and soon uncover a plot to overthrow the U.S. government.

The film clocks in at just above two hours but it feels much longer. The first half is really well-paced and sets high expectations. The second half unfortunately does not deliver. It quietly limps to a boisterous and satisfactory end.

Russell’s writing in general seems a little out of tune. As the movie begins, it seems like the actors are playing everything straight to be funny. As it goes along, it becomes clear that it was supposed to be funny, but only to David O. Russell.

His direction seems to bring out the worst in this star-studded cast that also includes Robert De Niro, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rami Malek and Chris Rock. Their talent is hard to fully repress, however, which results in some slightly above average acting and a solid ensemble effort overall.

The premise has a ton of potential on its own and the main trio of actors seemed to have fun working within it. A particularly interesting choice was using veterans as the target group and touching on how vulnerable of a demographic they are when it comes to politicking.

“Amsterdam,” however, spoils itself with what I like to call Adam McKay syndrome, in which a clever movie is instantly killed when the main character spends some of the final moments spelling out both the political messaging and the general moral of the story.

In the closing act of the film, when good has prevailed, Bert gives a monologue that explains the entire meaning of the movie to the audience. He talks about the importance of kindness and neighborliness in the face of media giants and politicians who want you to participate in false outrage so they can get richer.

The impact of this sequence is further diminished by Russell’s direction. Everytime Bert would interrupt the scene around him to speak via his inner monologue, the camera would push in hard on Bale’s face until it was the only thing in the shot. It was weirdly anxiety-inducing at a time when you were supposed to finally be relieved.

Despite the issues with the writing and directing, “Amsterdam” is a fun movie about fighting for democracy as an everyday citizen. If you have the time and there is nothing else to see, give “Amsterdam” a try.