Amsterdam

Partly inspired by real events, Amsterdam takes place only fleetingly in its titular city during an early flashback, set shortly after World War I; the bulk of the story is set in New York in 1933, where glass-eyed physician Burt Berendsen (a very likable Christian Bale) and attorney Harold Woodman (John David Washington, handsome and wooden as usual), best pals since the war, are tasked by a wealthy woman (none less than Taylor Swift) to investigate the death of her father (Ed Begley Jr.), who happened to be Burt and Harold's commanding officer in France. Soon the daughter herself winds up dead and our two heroes are framed by the real killer for her murder. On the run they go, trying to keep the cops at bay while sussing out the truth behind these two murders.

As you might guess from the advertising, Margot Robbie also stars in the movie: she is introduced in the aforementioned flashback as Valerie, an artistically-inclined American nurse (with a slight Aussie accent) who befriends Burt and Harold and romances the latter in a Jules and Jim-inspired reverie. So only our protagonists are surprised when she suddenly pops up in 1933 to help them crack the case.

In Chinatown fashion, this murder mystery leads to a bizarre conspiracy – again, one taken from a long-forgotten page of American history – but in spite of its dark underpinnings, Amsterdam maintains an oddly happy-go-lucky tone, making for an enjoyable but inconsequential watch.

Every David O. Russell movie is a mixed bag, and so it is here. Some scenes work, some don't. Some casting works, some doesn't. I did appreciate the film's earnest examination of the struggles of World War I veterans, and Russell's direction is refreshingly no-nonsense, avoiding the hit-or-miss visual whimsies that mark his previous work. But his dialogue here is too florid and moralizing: most of the actors besides Bale have a hard time getting it out of their mouths. And while the real-life background of the story is interesting, and it obviously echoes recent political events, it comes off as a mere historical footnote. The Cuban Missile Crisis it ain't.