Changing Lanes: Our Review of ‘Amsterdam’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - October 06, 2022
Changing Lanes: Our Review of ‘Amsterdam’

Doesn’t matter if you are driving a car or a narrative, sometimes changing lanes isn’t necessarily to your benefit.

In theatres now, from writer/director David O Russell; Amsterdam has a lot going for it with some fairly peppy pacing and a loaded ensemble cast but when this eclectic character driven romp turns into a pointed political statement it generally loses its way when the stories eccentricities turn into sloppy plot points.

In 1930’s Amsterdam, three close friends find themselves at the center of one of the most shocking secret plots in American history as a world that had been recovering from one war, just might be on the brink of another.

With its quirky pacing and unique characters, Amsterdam actually plays like the Coen Bros are doing their own version of All The President’s Men or The Parallax View.  However; Russell ultimately gets way too bogged down in lots of thematic exposition that isn’t nearly as smart as it thinks it is.

There’s obviously no doubting the talent of David O Russell, but it needs some checks and balances as Amsterdam feels like the kind of thing that read better on the page then it did in practice.

The production design is top shelf and with characters that give inspiration to something that is a little more gonzo and off the wall.  It’s not hard to get invested in our leads and the burgeoning friendship that Russell serves up so well as they find themselves on the run for a murder that they didn’t commit.

But it veers in so many different directions that it’s actually hard to keep track at times as they run into covert government agents who are hinting at future wars (Mike Myers & Michael Shannon), love interests (Zoe Saldana, Andrea Riseborough), or generals and millionaires getting caught up in secret cabals angling for world control (Robert De Niro, Rami Malek).  While there was genuine electricity between the leads, this film was ultimately over written and very much overcast with far too many characters and well know faces to distract us from the parts of the film that were actually enjoyable.

Christian Bale was delightfully unhinged as Burt Berendsen, the former army war doc with a habit for self-medicating and made for a charming and oft-kilter leading man that audiences can get behind.  The other two in this trio; Margot Robbie and John David Washington all have off the charts chemistry with each other and we get drawn into their periods after the war that brought them together and the comedic second hand they have with one another, but when the mystery and conspiracy kicks in, it all ends up fairly messy and not all that watchable.

Ultimately, Amsterdam tries too hard to make political and social statements that are all too relevant today, especially considering how much of this story was inspired by things that actually did happen but it loses its way.   The electric chemistry between Christian Bale, John David Washington and Margot Robbie would have made this critic want to watch any misadventure that these characters get into but it got too wrapped up in making a social and political statement and forgot to be entertaining.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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