Amsterdam Review: Suffers From A Genre And Tonal Identity Crisis

Amsterdam squanders its extremely impressive cast and its really interesting story with weird pacing issues and what can only be described as a genre and tonal identity crisis.

Director: David O. Russell
Summary: In the 1930s, three friends witness a murder, are framed for it, and uncover one of the most outrageous plots in American history.

Amsterdam Review: Suffers From A Genre And Tonal Identity Crisis
Amsterdam Poster. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

There's A Good Movie Inside Amsterdam…Somewhere

The most frustrating thing about Amsterdam is that you can see the good movie that is lurking just beyond the horizon line. It's just a little too far away to have bearing on the film currently in theaters which is a real shame. There was potential here because the actual events that this movie is based on are so buckwild that they sound like something from a movie script. It's obscure history for sure, but it's ripe for adaptation. The right pieces are here for this adaptation to be amazing, with the cast being the main reason. To say that there are a lot of big names in this movie would be an understatement, but the heavy lifting is done by Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, and John David Washington as our three leads, who are totally not in a threesome despite how all of this might look.

Bale commits to the role with all the gusto he commits to everything, and even when he's in bad movies, he's always compelling to watch. Robbie is much of the same, and she has real chemistry with both Bale and Washington as she plays with post-World War I manic pixie dream girl. Of the three, Washington is probably the weakest link, but he holds his own well enough against the other two, even if it's unclear whether or not he's really got that much range.

Amsterdam Review: Suffers From A Genre And Tonal Identity Crisis
(L-R): Christian Bale as Burt Berendsen, Margot Robbie as Valerie Voze, and John David Washington as Harold Woodman in 20th Century Studios' AMSTERDAM. Photo by Merie Weismiller Wallace; SMPSP. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Amsterdam Has A Genre And Tonal Identity Crisis

The actual events that this is based on are wild and worth looking into. They are interesting enough that if IMDB is anything to go by, someone is working on a TV show, and we can hope that will work out better than this. The problem with Amsterdam is that this movie has no idea what it wants to be down to its DNA, and that is primarily the fault of writer and director David O. Russell [who has some serious allegations out there that shouldn't be ignored]. What is the genre of this movie? That is a very good question because it has no idea. It's a murder mystery, then it's a thriller, then it's a comedy, then it's a war movie, then it's a romance, and then it's a heist, and these changes don't just come with the shift in genre. The tone of the movie changes as it goes through this identity crisis and tries to figure out what the hell is going on.

The changes are so all over the place that it becomes impossible to get invested in anything that is going on. Amsterdam wants us to be invested in the romance and friendship of Burt, Valerie, and Harold, but the different changes in tone and genre with the sloppy writing make that impossible. Just when you think the movie is settling into what it is actually going to be, it switches things up yet again. This whole situation is incredibly chaotic and convoluted, and maybe O. Russell wanted that to reflect in the movie. However, it ends up making everything feel inconsistent and like nothing in the film ever gets the chance to settle. The final reveal of the entire conspiracy plot [real-life events don't count as spoilers, don't @ me] is played like an Ocean's Eleven-style reveal that falls completely flat because this has only been a heist movie for the last two minutes.

Amsterdam Review: Suffers From A Genre And Tonal Identity Crisis
(L-R): Anya Taylor-Joy as Libby, Rami Malek as Tom, Christian Bale as Burt, Robert De Niro as Gil, and Margot Robbie as Valerie in 20th Century Studios' AMSTERDAM. Photo by Merie Weismiller Wallace; SMPSP. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The wasted potential of Amsterdam is somehow more egregious than any of the mishaps that Russell and his team make on screen. There is too much talent up there, and this story is too wild for a movie to feel this boring and this disjointed. There is a way of mimicking the insanity of reality while also keeping your movie feeling consistent. The answer to the question of "what kind of movie is Amsterdam?" is simple only because the answer is "yes." The movie is everything, which means that in the end, it's nothing. And this wild bit of history that not many know about will have to wait for someone else to come along and tell it competently.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam Review: Suffers From A Genre And Tonal Identity Crisis
Review by Kaitlyn Booth

3/10
Amsterdam squanders its extremely impressive cast, and its really interesting story with weird pacing issues and what can only be described as a genre and tonal identity crisis.

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Kaitlyn BoothAbout Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. She loves movies, television, and comics. She's a member of the UFCA and the GALECA. Feminist. Writer. Nerd. Follow her on Twitter @katiesmovies and @safaiagem on Instagram.
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