With one of the most imposing casts ever assembled, the director of Three Kings (1999), The winner (2010), The bright side of life (2012), American Scandal (2013) and Joy: The name of success (2015) conceived one of the most pretentious and failed films of recent times.
amsterdam (amsterdam, United States/2022). Script and direction: David O. Russell. Photography: Emmanuel Lubezki. Editing: Jay Cassidy. Music: Daniel Pemberton. Cast: Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Alessandro Nivola, Andrea Riseborough, Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Rock, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Shannon, Mike Myers, Taylor Swift, Timothy Olyphant, Zoe Saldaña, Rami Malek and Robert De Niro . Distributor: Disney (20th Century Studios). Duration: 134 minutes. Suitable for over 13 years old with reserves.
David O. Russell’s second feature film, released in 1996, was called Flirting with Disaster. And that “flirting with disaster” is what the celebrated New York screenwriter, producer and director does 26 years later. Chaotic, ambitious, pretentious and decidedly unsuccessful, amsterdam It is one more example of the risks and airs of a filmmaker who likes to shoot without a net. And he does this leap into the void together with some performers who usually accompany him (from Christian Bale to Robert De Niro) and other figures who complete a true acting dream-team: Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Anya Taylor-Joy, Zoe Saldaña, Rami Malek, Alessandro Nivola, Andrea Riseborough, Chris Rock, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Shannon, Mike Myers, Timothy Olyphant and Taylor Swift herself. Yes, enough to complete a starting team and even a bench full of stars.
“A lot of this actually happened”, assures the poster that precedes the overwhelming, exhausting and at times irritating 134 minutes of the film. It is true that in this tangle of romances, confrontations, misfortunes, murders and persecutions, facts “inspired” in reality appear (especially the political conspiracy that is reconstructed at the end with fascist groups trying to seize power), but this denunciation of manipulation, polarization and totalitarianism (there are the concrete traces of Mussolini and Hitler so that there are no doubts) never finds its essence, its emotional heart or its course.
Part black comedy, part romantic drama, part film noir, part political fable, amsterdam it pretends to be many things (or all of them) at the same time and does not end up developing or exploiting any of its multiple and, in principle, auspicious edges. Russell plays the misanthropic cynicism of the Coens, the satirical spirit of Adam McKay and the stylized fable of Wes Anderson and ends up losing on all counts. The film does not amuse, it does not fascinate, it does not move. In the best of cases, you can admire the visual display (the portentous photography is by the Mexican Emmanuel Lubezki) and the production resources, but at this point in Hollywood history it is a rather minor consolation.
Many (too many) things happen in this story set in 1918 and 1933, and -mortal sin- none of it matters much. There is something like a “triangle” to-the-Jules and Jim between Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale), a doctor who lost an eye in the First World War (and tends to lose the glass one every so often), his best friend and ex-soldier Harold Woodman (John David Washington) and Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie in brunette plan), a nurse who saves Burt’s life but later falls in love with Harold. The three happily dance Charleston in Amsterdam to meet again 15 years later in the much more sordid New York and in much less happy circumstances.
And if none of these three leading characters reaches a minimum of dramatic intensity, psychological depth, charisma, charm or empathy, the rest of the massive cast is left with an almost testimonial participation in their place as victims or victimizers, rude men or fatal women, of spies or mobsters, detectives or businessmen, military or politicians. Too much wasted talent. Too much accumulated whim.
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Reviews: Review of “Amsterdam”, by David O. Russell, with Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Rock, Rami Malek, Taylor Swift and Robert De Niro