Amsterdam: An exhausting, muddled plot worn very thin

David O Russell’s comedy looks good but a star-studded cast can do little to rescue the wholly misconceived script

    
Director: David O Russell
Cert: 15A
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington Chris Rock, Anya Taylor-Joy, Zoe Saldaña, Mike Myers, Michael Shannon, Timothy Olyphant, Andrea Riseborough, Taylor Swift, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alessandro Nivola, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro
Running Time: 2 hrs 15 mins

For almost an hour, one keeps hoping against all evidence, that this exhausting, muddled new comedy from David O Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) will settle down. A wacky caper inspired by Business Plot, a supposedly fascist 1933 political conspiracy in the United States. Stay tuned for the heavily signposted Contemporary Parallels.

Amsterdam concerns two wartime chums embroiled in a murky plot concerning the murder of their former commanding officer.

Christian Bale is Burt Berendsen, a doctor with a prosthetic eye, one of many first World War injuries that are unwisely mined for zaniness. John David Washington is Harold Woodsman, a lawyer, who, returning to postwar New York, misses the freedom that the titular city offered him, not least because, in Europe, he was romanced by Margot Robbie’s nurse Valerie.

What follows is a welcome constellation of Hollywood stars — they’ve even lured Mike Myers out of semi-retirement — pressed into wafer-thin caricatures. They come and go with little impact or purpose. The simultaneously flimsy, yet torturously-explained plot feels like Preston Sturges by way of a beta AI prototype.


Daniel Pemberton’s kooky score only amplifies the misappropriated screwball tropes. Unholy chunks of explaining leave the viewer pining for end credits that are further off than they have any right to be.

The cast can do little to rescue the wholly misconceived script. Gorgeous cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki, Judy Becker’s excellent production design, and Albert Wolsky’s fabulous costumes add to the frustration. A good-looking waste, but a waste nonetheless.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic