Friday Film Review --"Amsterdam"
The latest film from director David O. Russell is ambitious and quirky, with an all-star cast. But ultimately, it falls short.
“Amsterdam” is about a trio of close friends, World War I vets, who uncover a fascist plot in the dark days of early 1930s New York.
The lead, Dr. Burt Berendsen, is played by Christian Bale. Berendsen has passed up a Park Avenue practice to focus on treating maimed veterans with unorthodox, and maybe illegal, prescriptions. He’s a feisty but chewed-up character, and his own war souvenir, a glass eye, is a running gag because he has to keep chasing after it.
Burt frequently partners with old comrade Harold Woodman, played by John David Washington, who broke the color barrier to become a lawyer. They’re hired to look into the mysterious death of a VIP. Before they know it, they are framed for murder, and re-united with their old friend, Valerie Voze, portrayed by Margot Robbie, the nurse who treated their battlefield injuries.
Writer and director David Russell was discovered at Sundance in 1994 and has become known since for films like “American Hustle” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” Maybe inspired by “Chinatown," he titled his new film after a locale that haunts our three heroes, but in a good way. In Amsterdam, Burt, Harold and Valerie spent a brief happy time after the war, taking their turn at being The Lost Generation.
The film throws out a number of questions. Who are the people we love, or should love? Why does Valerie’s creative fetish involve salvaging shrapnel from mangled soldiers and fashioning them into tortured-looking art objects? And what inspired the voice for Bale’s character? I can’t decide if it’s Peter Falk or Al Pacino from “Dick Tracy.”
Trouble is, all these ingredients are diverting, but the overall result underwhelms. Typical is the climax, where the scheme our heroes devise to expose the bad guys—pretty well turns out the way they hoped. Oh.
The cast is a potpourri. It includes Mike Myers, miscast as an upper-crust Brit, Robert DeNiro as a general-turned-whistleblower (based on a real historical character, we’re told), and Taylor Swift, who looks gorgeous, sings a few bars, and exits the movie swiftly.
Walking down the dark, mean streets of “Amsterdam” I can only detect two-and-a-half stars out of five.