Review by Nóra Wittmann
David O. Russell’s (American Hustle (2013), Silver Linings Playbook (2012)) newest feature Amsterdam (2022) tries embarrassingly hard to entertain but fails to meet the expectations to be a light yet engaging comedic murder mystery.
Valerie (Margot Robbie), Harold (John David Washington) and Burt (Christian Bale) are close friends who stuck together after the first World War to have the happiest time of their lives in Amsterdam. However, their joy ends soon as the wacky, glass-eyed doctor Burt, who was very much third wheeling his (chemistry-less) lover friends, realises that he must go back to his estranged wife and start his prestigious medical practice in New York. Harold soon follows him and finishes his law degree. The plot begins more than a decade later. They are approached by the daughter (Taylor Swift) of their late general to investigate as she suspects foul play regarding her father’s death. Harold and Burt soon get accused of murder and try to prove their innocence with Valerie’s help and expose an easily predictable fascist conspiracy in the meantime.
Emmanuel Lubezki’s stunning photography with the warm beige hues and slightly worm’s eye view shots make this star parade pleasant to watch. In even the smallest supporting roles, most of the biggest names in Hollywood were able to make memorable performances. Rami Malek’s natural but chaotic acting outshines Anya Taylor-Joy’s attempts to impress. Chris Rock’s character shows up every few minutes to deliver a terribly written one liner, but his performance saves the jokes. Robert De Niro’s dramatised acting in opposition to the movie’s theatrical tone brings a smile to the audience’s face. Washington keeps proving he is one of the most exciting performers of this generation. Additionally, the outstanding, subtle and unique work of the makeup artists is definitely a highlight of the movie.
In some moments it is hard to believe that Russell and Christian Bale had been working on their idea for the movie (loosely based on real events) for about six years. Amsterdam wants to be a comedy but leaves the viewers with flat jokes as they are waiting for the mystery and conspiracy to unfold. Each event is overexplained in a voice-over just in case everyone missed it the first two times it’s shown. As the spectators are looking for the non-existing breadcrumbs to follow, they quickly lose interest and are left with the evergreen lesson of how love and kindness always wins over hate.