Release Date: 7th October 2022
Directed by: David O. Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Chris Rock
Written by: David O. Russell
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki
``slight but hugely enjoyable``
Just like his Scorsese cover version, American Hustle, David O. Russell’s Amsterdam opens with the disclaimer, “A lot of this really happened”. There is a lot going on here, so let’s get down to it.
In 1930s New York, Christian Bale and John David Washington play a pair of brothers-in-arms from World War 1. In a French field hospital, they meet Margot Robbie’s nurse who, in turn, turns out to be an artist, then turns out to be a spy. Perhaps. Following the war the three enjoy a brief Butch and Sundance period of happiness in Amsterdam, before Bale returns to his life as a doctor in New York, Washington becomes a Lawyer, and Robbie disappears. When their old army general turns up dead, the general’s daughter suspects foul play and asks Bale to carry out an autopsy. She is then murdered and the pair become prime suspects. In the course of trying to clear their names, they become involved in a fascist conspiracy to topple the US government that also involves the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, and bird-watching. So.. something for everyone.
Amsterdam could be described as a screwball caper. Like The Coen Brothers doing Frank Capra, it’s very funny and zips along at a fair pace. It makes for a slight but very enjoyable watch. Like some weird Heston Blumenthal-concocted foam that tastes like Christmas dinner on the tongue but then disappears immediately, this is not designed to stay with you. It’s nice going down but disappears from memory as soon as it’s been consumed.
The cast is absolutely enormous. Aside from Bale, Washington and Robbie, there’s also Michael Shannon, Mike Myers, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana, Chris Rock, Taylor Swift and Robert DeNiro. The road to good intentions is scattered with the bones of similar ensembles. Very few work. Keeping all these elements in play is no easy task, but it’s to Russell’s credit that he pulls it off without any of these characters feeling superfluous.
Bale has a reputation of taking himself very seriously, but thankfully that is not the case here. His performance is so entertaining that he often gets a laugh that is not in the script.
Unfortunately the final act drags everything down and things just grind to a halt. It’s here that Amsterdam crosses the line from giddy to outright daft, and the climax steps into Scooby Doo, “it was old man Smithers the caretaker all along,” territory. It’s a shame, because otherwise, Amsterdam is hugely enjoyable.