Death to the ensemble feature was looming ever since The French Dispatch failed to truly catapult anyone to notable, considerable work. Wes Anderson should not bear the brunt of making a solid feature that fell apart inside of itself, but he does because consistency elsewhere has him work with large crowds. Amsterdam does much the same for David O. Russell but his failure is hilarious and not even Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and Taylor Swift can do much to aid an alienating director. His charm is short and absent here as it was in the redundant American Hustle and the exhaustingly fine double bill of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. Latest feature Amsterdam is a gluttonous affair.
Ridiculing the promising talents of John David Washington, and exposing the half-hearted work of veterans like Robert De Niro, Amsterdam is a walking nightmare. Murder most foul and a Great Depression backdrop should steer Robbie, Washington and Bale through something articulate and sensitive, an expression of grief or guilt of the American gluttony that still persevered. With Russell sat in the chair? No chance at all. Eat good food, drink good drinks, and do try to get away with murder. He nearly did with Amsterdam. Face fixers lift the spirits but the madness of medicine and the miracles of murder are nothing but dupes and uneventful fixtures soon follow. With so much time on its hands, it is startling how little Amsterdam does.
Most of the allure in Amsterdam comes from the flashy pop shock of seeing De Niro, of seeing Swift, of seeing anyone that has a legacy, contemporary or otherwise, behind them. Running on fumes for the intervals between those Anya Taylor-Joy and Andrea Riseborough sightings, the smug nature that comes from a well-lit and often surreal momentum is squandered entirely. Whodunnit mishaps and a poor blend of comedy in the murderous misgivings of the feature see costume changes to no end, ineffective sparks of main characters causing confusion for those that know no better and a lack of elegance to include the likes of Michael Shannon and Mike Myers in the running. Everyone is involved, angles involved throughout give too much away too early and the pay-off, regardless of how much is kept under wraps, is ineffective and terribly dull and obvious with how it includes the real-world ructions of the time.
Newsreel snapshots, committees and a floundering criticism of those in power at a pertinent time. Yet another Hollywood misstep in trying to give up double crosses, bloody murders and ensemble features that come and go with breezy unawareness of the ironies of criticising power when in a place of such power. Amsterdam is just Don’t Look Up but instead of environmentalism, it deals blow after blow to a broken system that likely led to the greenlight for this feature. It may be based on the real-world Business Plot conspiracy, but Russell keeps few of the details intact as he pushes on through with caricature representations of real people, a bloated script and a lack of awareness that prevents Amsterdam from connecting with the themes that linger on its muddled tones. No amount of fun momentum or sharp shocks can save this one.