Wednesday, December 14, 2022


What a glorious failure AMSTERDAM is! A film that is indulgent, incoherent, tonally uneven and not as whacky as it thinks it is.  And yet, and yet, there's something noble in its square-on look at racism, fascism, class snobbery and misogyny - a film that shows us clearly what war actually does to vital bodies - at the same time as attempting a JULES ET JIM romance combined with a Coen Brothers'esque caper. Writer-director David O Russell is more than ever himself - for all his brilliance and over-reach. This film is absolutely his.  I found flashes of brilliance within it. And in a month where Germany convicted men of fomenting a far-right coup, the central message remains important.

Christian Bale channels Kramer from Seinfeld in his role as Burt, a World War One veteran with a glass eye and a fondness for self-medicating with gonzo drugs. Burt is balanced out by Harold, a black lawyer who oozes charm, calm and confidence in a much-needed straight performance from John David Washington.  The third partner in their friendship is Valerie Voze, a daring, courageous artist played with elan by Margot Robbie.  The three live a bohemian life in post-war Amsterdam, helping vets recover from their horrific injuries, until the boys return home to New York.  

Fast forward to 1933, where the film opens, and a glamorous rich young woman (Taylor Swift) is murdered shortly after asking our boys to investigate the suspicious death of her father, their commanding officer. So begins a shaggy caper in which we discover that a bunch of fascist sympathisers are trying to manipulate a US general (Robert de Niro) into launching a veteran-backed military coup. Sound too fanciful? It really happened. 

The resulting film is, as I said, a mess. But it's a well acted one with some amazingly funny set-pieces and a truly sinister slippery turn from Rami Malek and Mike Myers as a British spy standing out among the bit parts. The film also looks fantastic, with stunning production and costume design and a dreamy sepia tinted warm glow thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki's lensing. I don't know what this film truly is, genre wise. It doesn't coalesce. But I'm glad it exists. 

AMSTERDAM is rated R and has a running time of 134 minutes. It is streaming on Disney plus.

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