Amsterdam (Digital)

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

November 17, 2022 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

I don’t know just where to begin with this one. My nephew was going crazy with anticipation for Amsterdam. So much so that he mentioned it repeatedly before its release date. All that just for him to not have seen it (as of this writing). When I viewed the trailer, I knew it wouldn’t be my cup of tea. It appeared very much to be like a film that would be in love with itself. I enjoy some of David O. Russel’s films, but for every Silver Linings Playbook, there’s an American Hustle or Joy. Christian Bale is certainly a committed actor, but darn does he get annoying here. I will delve more into that in a bit, but this is an overlong, boring film that constantly shifts tone and can’t seem to stay on track. It is something you’re hoping will find its stride and get good, but that simply doesn’t happen.

The advertising and the beginning of the film remind us that a lot of this happened. Is that still a selling point using the “Based on True Events” angle? Anyway, the story goes back to the 1930’s where it follows three friends who witness a murder and them become suspects as they’re accused of pushing the victim in front of a vehicle. There are more plot revelations, but none of it the least bit interesting. Christian Bale plays Burt Berendsen. He narrates some of the film and gets us up to speed. There’s a flashback sequence where we see how he was somewhat disfigured and lost an eye in the war. He now makes prosthetics for people who have gone through similar situations as he. He also wants approval to prescribe more medicines. While he’s at war, Burt meets Harold Woodsman (John David Washington) and the two become close. They’re both seriously injured but come across a nurse named Valerie (Margot Robbie) who they also become close with. The three of them move to Amsterdam until Burt returns to New York City. Harold and Valerie grow close, and before long, they leave for New York as well. Some years pass and Burt reconnects with Harold when Harold asks him to perform an autopsy. This introduces a character named Elizabeth Meekins, played by none other than Taylor Swift. I won’t reveal too many more plot specifics, but it’s around this point that there’s a murder for which Harold and Burt are accused of. We see that they’re obviously guilty, but this sets things in motion. While I chose not to spoil certain things, there are also far too many things to divulge here. And therein lies the biggest problem with Amsterdam. There’s simply too much going on here. I don’t mind a busy film, or one filled with many characters so long as I am on board with it early on. I also hope to care about the characters. This is a film with one of the greatest varieties of actors but wastes them on a joyless and aimless film. Robert DeNiro shows us here, Chris Rock, Michael Shannon and so many more.

Looking at films with a large ensemble that works well, I think of the recent Knives Out film (I haven’t seen the recent sequel) and how much fun that was and how it used each of its participants in a fun and engaging film. OK, this is a whole other genre, but that doesn’t mean it can’t engage the viewer. So much here goes wrong that I care not to elaborate much further. Sometimes things just don’t work and that’s precisely what happens here. For his next film, I hope David O. Russel narrows down his film and keeps the story simple and more personal, thus making it more engaging. This thing is just a mess, and it doesn’t work.

Video: How’s it look?

While viewed, digitally, the film at least looks great. The visuals are arguably the film’s biggest strength as it recreates a much earlier era. The colors pop when they should, and all seem appropriate when it needs to change styles. Flesh tones and all appeared accurate and smooth. We get a 2.39:1 transfer that appeared fine to my eyes.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The Dolby Atmos track proved satisfying as vocals were crisp and the background was almost always active. Things do get livelier over the course of the film as well. Like the transfer, the track satisfies.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There are no extras with this digital version.

The Bottom Line

Maybe some (my nephew for one) were expecting more from this, but the trailers didn’t entice me at all. Too much of everything harms this film. Tone and plot and all are all over the map. Skip it.

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