October 7, 2022 / Walt Disney Studios Canada
Christian Bale, John David Washington, Margot Robbie, Robert DeNiro
“Amsterdam,” an original crime epic about three close friends who find themselves at the center of one of the most shocking secret plots in American history. A fascinating and richly intricate tale that brilliantly weaves historical fact with fiction for a timely, cinematic experience.
Written By Darren
Rating 3.5 out of 5
Amsterdam features a star studded cast with some of the biggest names in Hollywood who make a muddled and heavily edited story a fun outing, even if the film fails to be the intriguing mystery it sets out to be.
Writer director David O. Russell has a knack for getting some of the best casts and giving his actors and actresses awards worthy roles, with Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale winning Oscars for their performances with Russell in Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter respectively. And while many moviegoers assumed Amsterdam would be the same scenario as for his latest film Russell reunited with Bale and Robert De Niro and collaborates with the likes of Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Rami Malek, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Michael Shannon for the first time, unfortunately this ambitious film never takes off.
Inspired by true events, the film is set in 1933 New York and tells the story of a group of friends who witness a murder and subsequently are framed for it. While trying to clear their names, the friends uncover a far larger conspiracy that they have become wrapped up in that is truly one of the most outrageous conspiracies in American history. The film features a lot of characters and Russell tries to flush out each character for his cast, at the same time as setting up a grand and intricate conspiracy theory.
There is a fascinating story here, but unfortunately a film was not the right format for it to be told. While watching the film, it was evidently clear that the original cut was far longer than the two hour and fifteen minute run time, as you could see the use of ADR to help drive the plot forward so everything could be achieved in the film’s run time. As a result, it felt like you were missing portions of the story as the plot quickly moved along to the big reveal of the final act, and at even times awkward as dialogue was literally ramming the plot forward instead of allowing the story to develop naturally. Given the extent of storytelling and the number of characters that needed to be developed, this story would have been far better suited for a television miniseries.
But with such an outstanding cast, it’s easy to look past this and still have some fun with the film. The main trio of Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington are a lot of fun. Each of them has a larger than life persona that fills up the screen, and there is a fun rapport between them. While none of them give anywhere near close to the best performances of their careers, it truly is a blast to watch these three great actors team up.
The supporting cast unfortunately suffers given the time constraints of the film and the large array of characters. With twelve main supporting characters each playing an integral role in the plot, each actor has only three or four scenes maximum, equating to about approximately five to ten minutes of screentime, making it feel like a glorified cameo rather than a supporting character. This unfortunately leaves actors like Schoenaerts, Saldana, Riseborough, Myers and Shannon with little to do, not having a memorable impact on the film despite them all being great actors. Nivola is severely miscast as Schoenaerts’s trainee detective who is meant to be the film’s comedic relief, failing to deliver anything remotely funny and just comes across as annoying. De Niro can do no wrong, and while his screen time is limited, it's the exact performance you expect from such a legendary actor that helps tie the film’s story together in the final act. Swift is fine, her role is so small that it is hard to truly comment on her acting as her role is very exaggerated on purpose, and her one scene is destined to become a GIF online.
It is Malek and Taylor-Joy who are the standouts of the supporting cast. As husband and wife, the two of them have a wonderful energy and goofy banter between themselves, delivering some of the most entertaining moments of the film. Their scenes are all with Bale, Margot, and Washington, and you can feel the actors go off script and improvise their lines, and it’s just a delight to watch these talented actors have fun with their characters and the plot elements they are given to work with.
It comes as no surprise that the film looks great. Everything from the set design to the costume design fully recreates 1933 New York, transporting the audience back to that time era with great detail and a dramatic flair that matches the tone of the film. It’s a nice addition to the film, that combined with the cast helps the heavily edited screenplay play out more tolerably. There is no denying that Amsterdam is stacked with an insane amount of star power, but not even Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Rami Malek, Anya Taylor-Joy and the rest of the ensemble’s valiant efforts can completely salvage a condensed story reworked to fit a two hour run time to be the mesmerizing film that audiences expected.