Amsterdam15¦ Blu-ray, DVD
Too all intent and purposes US filmmaker David O. Russell is a bit of a dick. There have been a number of reports of abusive behaviour on set, where he’s just let rip at his actors, that have included George Clooney, Amy Adams and Lily Tomlin of all people.
But he doesn’t just save it for the set, having also allegedly attacked Christopher Nolan at a party. But maybe we can let that one slide, just to get our own back for all that awful mumbling we had to put up with from Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
So it must have been a very brave group of actors indeed, willing to put themselves in the possible firing line of the fiery director, for his latest film, based on a true story.
It was during the first world war that Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale) and Harold Woodman (John David Washington) became firm friends, that saw them go on to work together in New York on their return, with Burt a doctor and Harold a lawyer.
Harold approaches Burt about a case he’s working on, where a young woman has asked to investigate the death of her father, which she believes was down to foul play. Harold agrees, but soon wishes he didn’t when the pair are involved in a murder on the streets of New York, which they are swiftly accused of.
This forces them to try and clear their names, which makes them cross paths with a very close friend of theirs they met in Amsterdam, Valerie (Margot Robbie), ten years previously. The deeper they dig, the more they realise they’re onto something far bigger than just the murder they’ve wrongly been accused of, but how far does it go?
Despite his deplorable on set – and occasionally off set too – behaviour, Russell must be doing something right, that he not only attracts some supreme talent, but they keep coming back for more, such as Jennifer Lawrence and, in this case, Christian Bale.
And you can see why, in the quality of this script. This is probably his most rich and layered yet, which may account for its poor showing at the box office, as it bombed magnificently.
It’s fair to say it’s not a frothy and fun type of film; it starts with a single thread, and as the characters start pulling on it, gets more complex as they pull. You may need to concentrate a little harder than normal, but its surprisingly rewarding, with some wonderful performances from all three of its main leads.
Bale, as you would expect, gives his all, with what for him is a role with a lighter touch, but of course that comes with some baggage, like the physical scars his character carries from his experience at war, including the loss of one eye, which all has a knock on effect on his marriage, which finds him in a fairly cuckold relationship. hell, he even sings too.
Robbie and Washington also look like their having fun along the way, with all through developing a warm and charming chemistry.
And Russell’s treatment of the film itself at least, is fascinating. There are a number of larger than life characters, all competing for your time and attention, taking place in a wonderfully realised world of New York City in the 1930’s.
There’s also the added twist that it’s also based on a true story, that involves a wealthy cabal that is keen to disrupt the current US way of life.
Although Russell doesn’t always come across as a pleasant individual, joining a growing number of directors including Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Bay and Joss Whedon, there’s no denying his talent. And although audiences didn’t fall in love with this film, with many perhaps just blinded by the incredible cast attached without realising the type of film it is, it is certainly impressive.
That said, it may be a little over long, coming in at nearly two and a quarter hours, making it a little sluggish in places, but it’s a film where you can truly see Russell flexing his considerable (creative) muscle to good effect, making his Amsterdam an intriguing and well worthwhile destination.