David O. Russell’s latest A-list caper is a big mess.
“Amsterdam” is the latest star-studded entry from director David O. Russell, whose “American Hustle” was on my best of 2010s list, but unfortunately, it’s a convoluted misfire that can’t decide if it wants to be funny or taken seriously.
The all-star cast is huge. Christian Bale, John David Washington, Margot Robbie, Mike Myers, Anya Taylor-Joy, Taylor Swift, Chris Rock, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alessandro Nivola, Timothy Olyphant, Andrea Riseborough, Zoe Saldana, Ed Begley, Jr., Rami Malek, and Robert De Niro. And yet, Russell fails to do anything special or profound with them. In fact, it’s pretty embarrassing at times.
I could barely follow the story, but here’s what I got. It starts off as a screwball comedy and then takes a hard U-turn into a political assassination plot.
The story is set in New York of the 1930s, and we meet an unlikely trio of characters, who are all caught in a mystery regarding murder and a dastardly plan that could rock the very foundation of America. Bale and Washington play two WWI vets, while Robbie plays their American nurse, who meets them with a French Accent.
Burt Berendsen (Bale) is also a doctor, who is more disfigured than his lawyer friend Harold Woodman (Washington), which is why he requires a back strap and a glass eye. Meanwhile, Valerie Voze (Robbie) begins a romance with Harold. They all spend their time in Amsterdam, associating with a glass eye specialist (Myers) and his American colleague (Shannon). And they end up going their separate ways.
Then, we jump to New York, when Burt and Harold are both framed for the murder of a young woman (Swift), who was the daughter of a murdered US Senator (Begley, Jr.), and they enlist the help of Valerie in the case. There are two detectives. One is Lem Getwiller (Schoenaerts), who also served with Burt in the war, and the other is Hitlz (Nivola), who is the impatient one.
The trio end up finding links, involving the elderly General Gil Dillenbeck (De Niro). He’s not the villain, but he could be targeted by one.
There may be one smile from me, and that was when Burt’s glass eye starts to make him look cross-eyed in one scene. You can still blink with a glass eye, but I’m not sure it can move like the way Bale’s do. Maybe I got distracted by other things. I don’t know. But I do know it’s supposed to be a running gag, when he loses his eye, especially the scene when Swift’s character gets murdered.
There’s also a love story for Burt in a subplot that cuts and pastes itself. He’s trying to patch things up with his wife (Riseborough), who had to boot him out of the house, but he’s also having a spark for an autopsy nurse (Saldana). These two talented actresses have nowhere to go in this subplot. That is if I can even call it a subplot.
Bale, Washington, and Robbie, and a number of these great talents are all wasted, as if they think they know what they’re doing. But really they don’t. It’s hard to take them seriously, it’s hard to understand them, and it’s hard for me to laugh at their jokes. That is if we can even call them jokes.
David O. Russell has made some of the best movies in the past, but even great talents can make bombs. I skipped “Accidental Love,” which even he disowned under the name Stephen Greene, and I think “Amsterdam” is a stupid movie that has no point. It’s one of the year’s worst.