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In general, life is more chaotic than the order forced upon it by cinematic stories, but apparently no one bothered to tell David O. Russell that. Over the course of his nearly 30-year career as a writer/director, Russell has made mania and tumult an artistic theme, a defining aesthetic, and – if numerous reports over the years are to be believed – some of his off-screen behavior. We expect tonal madness in his movies like Flirting with disaster and Silver Linings Playbook as features rather than bugs, and either roll with them or don’t.

With all this as a preface, there is still something inexplicable stopped on amsterdam. Using the bare bones of a real story, Russell has constructed a blend of conspiracy thriller, slapstick comedy, serious character drama and political tribune that feels almost aggressive in its unwillingness to give audiences anything to look back on. hang on. From scene to scene, it’s impossible to understand how the hell you should react to anything.

The story opens in 1933 New York, where Great War veteran Bert Berendsen (Christian Bale) is a doctor working on experimental pain remedies and cosmetic surgeries for fellow veterans. His former Army buddy, attorney Harold Woodman (John David Washington) approaches him to perform an autopsy requested by Liz Meekins (Taylor Swift), the daughter of their beloved former commanding officer; she suspects foul play in her father’s death. It becomes clear that Bert and Harold are sniffing too close to something unsavory when framed for murder – and their attempt to clear their names reconnects them with Valerie (Margot Robbie), the expatriate nurse the pair have known after the war while they were still in Europe.

Before diving headfirst into the mystery behind the framing of Bert and Harold, amsterdam looks back to 1918, introducing us to both the all-black regiment where they met and the post-war period where they bonded with Valerie. It’s a chance for Russell to set up clumsy incitements to the injustice suffered by black soldiers who fought for the country that still treated them like trash, while portraying Valerie as a strange soul who transforms people. shrapnel that she recovers from the bodies of the soldiers in art. works. It doesn’t take long to amsterdam to begin his defining showdown: he’s going to deal with issues like racism, the treatment of veterans, and the influence wielded by corporate interests in America, but he’s going to do it in the goofiest way possible.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with an artist serving the medicine of difficult subjects with a spoonful of sugar, of course; it’s just that Russell shows no ability to amsterdam to merge these two things rather than repeatedly slamming them into each other. Nowhere is this dynamic more apparent than in the starkly different performances given by Washington and Bale as characters who almost always share the same scenes and situations. Washington approaches each moment with utter seriousness, evoking the coiled intensity of an educated, professional man perpetually waiting for the next slight depending on his color. And Bale seems to have prepared himself by watching Brad Pitt’s performance in Burn after reading, turning Bert into a fool caught up in dangerous business way above his head, defined by the mishaps that befall his prosthetic eye. Most supporting cast – Matthias Schoenaerts and Alessandro Nivola as investigative detectives; Rami Malek as a millionaire industrialist; Anya Taylor Joy as Malek’s wife – inspired by Bale, presenting the feel of a farce, but with a humor-killing beat where people seem to be sitting around waiting for something interesting to happen produce.

It all culminates in a finale at a veterans reunion party, with Robert DeNiro as the general giving what could be a history-changing speech. Russell clearly revels in how the historical seed of his story mirrors certain contemporary events in American politics, and he doesn’t hesitate to stop the film in its tracks for a never-ending denouement where those parallels are emphasized and all that we just seen is repeated. ours. And throughout it all, as people pontificate and monologue, Bale’s Bert — theoretically, the audience substitutes for the narrator — is practically catatonic. amsterdam continues to try to introduce a weird sense of humor into its serious themes, but in a way that’s almost never funny and far more often actively irritating. On behalf of the tone police, it’s hard not to consider making a citizen’s arrest.

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