‘Amsterdam’? More Like Flopsterdam
David O. Russell's star-studded crime caper is already dead in the water
Next week, David O. Russell’s Amsterdam opens wide all across America, a rollicking crime caper starring three of cinema’s most compelling stars — Christian Bale doing a quirky little bit, Margot Robbie (brunette), and Tenet’s John David Washington — alongside the likes of Taylor Swift, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Robert De Niro. The film is loosely based on a real event in American history known as the “Business Plot,” in which World War I veterans tried to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt and install a dictator. All of which is to say, this is a star-studded, non-IP, R-rated feature from a previously award-winning director. I unknowingly walked past the premiere of the movie en route to see Moonage Daydream a week or so ago, and despite a poster-dense Lincoln Center and the inexplicable attendance of Drake, the mood was oddly muted. So why does no one give a shit? Let’s try to figure it out.
Is Amsterdam good?
As it hovers around 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s safe to say: Amsterdam is not good. At best, maybe, Amsterdam is fine. Maybe even the most ardent David O. Russell stans (can you imagine) will probably find it lesser. Indiewire called it a “humorless farce.”
But don’t people go see bad movies all the time?
That’s true, but mostly those bad movies are IP — part of a pre-existing franchise in which they already have some sense of emotional stake in the film’s events regardless of quality. Films that exist outside of the Marvel/DC/Disney/whatever of it all that don’t have quality to back them up are often dead on arrival when they go to theaters instead of streaming. Remember Men? Exactly.
What is Amsterdam even about?
Unfortunately, it seems as though this movie that is about three winsome and whimsical friends stopping a fascist takeover is… about Trump. :(
Isn’t David O. Russell canceled anyway?
Sort of! At best, he is an incredible abusive boss, and at worst, he is a sex criminal who allegedly assaulted his trans niece. This information about him was public knowledge long before the wave of #MeToo allegations in 2017, and though this is the director’s first film in seven years (conveniently taking the whole Trump era off), he has always existed on the margins of that particular social movement. He is obviously not yet a persona non grata if Taylor Swift and the rest of the A-list cast agreed to work with him. Pretty bleak.
Okay, well, even if he is canceled, David O. Russell often gets people Oscars. Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale… maybe just those two guys. So why is the studio dumping this in early October?
It appears to this intrepid blogger that Disney (who now owns Fox Searchlight) bet big on the “huge cast crime caper” SEO with not only Amsterdam but the also-dumped See How They Run after society experienced Knives Out fever in fall of 2019. It also appears that Disney is learning that what made Knives Out good was its director and writer, not just “a lot of famous people” and “crime.”
Should I see Amsterdam?
I don’t know, man, by all accounts it seems like a bad movie made by a bad guy. Get a backbone and go see TÁR that day instead.