Amsterdam (2022): David O. Russell’s Latest Fast-Paced, Star-Filled, Forgettable Time

“Amsterdam” is directed by David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) and stars Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, Ford v. Ferrari), Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, I, Tonya), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman, Tenet), Chris Rock (Madagascar, Grown Ups), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit, Last Night in Soho), Zoe SaldaƱa (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy), Mike Myers (Shrek, Bohemian Rhapsody), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals), Timothy Olyphant (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Mandalorian), Andrea Riseborough (Bloodline, Battle of the Sexes), Taylor Swift (The Lorax, Cats), Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl, Red Sparrow), Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Selma), Rami Malek (Night at the Museum, The Little Things), and Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, Meet the Parents). This film is mainly set in the 1930s, and centers around three people who are framed for murder. Together, this trio uncovers a plot that will change the course of history.

I have not seen all of David O. Russell’s films. I have seen “American Hustle,” which I was not a fan of. I have mostly forgotten it by now. I saw “Joy,” which I thought was cute. The acting was great, especially on Jennifer Lawrence’s part, but it was not my favorite movie of the year. I also saw “Silver Linings Playbook,” which, while not one of my favorite movies ever, is probably the best attempt at a feature Russell has ever given. I still have yet to see films like “Flirting with Disaster,” “Three Kings,” and “I Heart Huckabees.” I am mostly familiar with David O. Russell’s recent work. That said, he has built quite a name for himself as a filmmaker and it is no surprise that names like the ones listed happen to be working with him.

When you have this many Academy Award-nominated or winning actors and actresses in your film, it builds promise. It builds interest. It reminded me of when I saw “The Circle” back in 2017. You had all these culturally relevant or critically acclaimed performers like Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Patton Oswalt, and Bill Paxton. Given their resumes, I was excited to see what they could do. Unfortunately, their collaborative efforts could not escape them from this misfire. “Amsterdam,” while definitely more satisfying than “The Circle,” is in the same boat.

The best way I can describe “Amsterdam” is to say that the film is all over the place. There is a lot that goes down in just a span of two hours that I felt like I had to take some notes. The film is not wholly incompetent by any means, but it begs me to keep up with its quick pacing. I like quick pacing, but at times, the movie goes too quick. There are a lot of characters and interwoven storylines that there is a good chance that I will have forgotten a couple of them by the next couple weeks. I think this is a film that could warrant a second viewing, but I am not sure yet if it has the replay value. At times, the pacing of this movie reminded me of Guy Ritchie’s “The Gentlemen,” which I know some people like, but for whatever reason I just could not get into. One moment we’re here, one moment we’re there, and in the next my brain, which has escaped from my body, might as well have traveled to the end of the universe.

If there is any saving grace in “Amsterdam,” it would have to be Margot Robbie as Valerie Voze. I thought she had the best moments in the movie. I thought the casting matched the character and the way she was written and directed. This performance solidifies Robbie as one of my favorite actors working today. Her chemistry with Christian Bale and John David Washington is solid, and as much effort as those two put into their performances, Robbie feels like the clear winner here.

Speaking of Christian Bale, if you want me to be completely honest, I think he had a more memorable performance in “Thor: Love and Thunder” of all things. I am not saying that Christian Bale gave a terrible performance in “Amsterdam.” If anything, it was stellar. But I think when combining acting with overall characterization, Bale’s attempt at playing Gorr the God Butcher was somehow more convincing and compelling despite a movie like “Amsterdam” appearing to be more along the lines of Bale’s forte.

It is crystal clear that the story of “Amsterdam” is not the highlight of the movie. If you ask me, it had its moments. There was a specific moment that intrigued me at the beginning where our main characters find themselves in an unspeakable situation. Unfortunately, as soon as we dive away from that, the quality of the movie lessens.

If I had to look in advance at 2022 in film and predict any Best Ensemble nominees at the SAG Awards, “Amsterdam” would have been a contender based on name recognition. However, much like Garry Marshall’s unwatchable holiday-based movies like “New Year’s Eve” and “Mother’s Day,” the movie’s cast is the one glimmer of hope within what can simply be referred to as a hot mess. At least on paper. I never thought I would see the day where we have Margot Robbie, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Robert De Niro in the same movie. I just hope when that unpredictable day came along, there was good script for them all to bring to the screen.

As for other positives, the movie is attractively colorful. Not quite as glitzy and glossy as say “Elvis,” which in some ways might happen to be a good thing if you ask me. However, the look of the film is sometimes easy on the eyes. In addition to having a stacked, recognizable cast, a lot of them are wearing stunning outfits, some look handsome or sexy. If this were a silent film, this might be okay depending on what you put for text. The sets at times look presentable, elaborate, and occasionally have a vintage feel to them.

There is a saying that looks are not everything, and this movie is exhibit A as to why that saying exists. Yes, some of my favorite actors are put in the forefront. Yes, some of the costumes and sets look dazzling. Yes, the movie has an occasional feeling of immersion. Although this cannot save the film itself from providing what could be one of the sloppiest stories of the decade, and that is despite this movie claiming “A LOT OF THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.” Just because a story is true, does not make it entertaining. You want to know a true story? I woke up today and wrote this review. Imagine if I tried to sell that as a movie. The distributor would probably go out of business!

Here is a fun fact. Christian Bale, who has worked with David O. Russell in the past, signed on to do “Amsterdam” before a script was written. I get the notion of wanting to work with a big name director. Especially one you supposedly have a decent relationship with. Heck, if I were an actor and I hear the name Christopher Nolan or Jordan Peele I automatically think “business partnership.” I hope while these two high-profile industry insiders were thinking about how great it would be to work with each other, they took a moment to think of the quality of what they were going to make. Because despite the quantity of big names, quality seems to be sacrificed when it comes to the final product of “Amsterdam.”

In the end, “Amsterdam” has occasional glimmers of enjoyment, with some extreme emphasis on the word “occasional.” The film has an okay start, but the film itself never finds a way to be as compelling or entertaining as its first ten or fifteen minutes. I liked “Silver Linings Playbook,” but I cannot say the same for “Amsterdam.” I am going to give the forgettable and dull “Amsterdam” a 4/10.

“Amsterdam” is now playing in theatres everywhere, tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have more coming! I will soon unveil my thoughts on a couple of horror movies I watched recently, specifically “Smile” and “Halloween Ends.” Also, if you want to see more reviews from me, check out my thoughts on “See How They Run.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Amsterdam?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with a stacked cast whose script could not justify its star power? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Bullet Train (2022): A Rambunctious, Wild Ride That Lives Up To Its Transportive Name

DISCLAIMER: Before this review had been published, reports suggest Angelina Jolie had been revealed as a plantiff in recent assault allegations against her former partner, Brad Pitt. Scene Before (flicknerd.com) is a film review-centered website and will review “Bullet Train” in the same way it reviews any other movie regardless of who its crew happens to be and what their past actions are. Scene Before and its owner, Jack Drees, does not condone actions of assault.

“Bullet Train” is directed by David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) and stars Brad Pitt (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, World War Z), Joey King (Ramona and Beezus, The Kissing Booth), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Godzilla, Avengers: Age of Ultron), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta, Eternals), Andrew Koji (Warrior, Snake Eyes), Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai, Mortal Kombat), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals), Bad Bunny, and Sandra Bullock (Gravity, The Lost City). This film centers around a former assassin, known by the name Ladybug, who is tasked with acquiring a briefcase on a bullet train, all the while encountering other deadly assassins.

Brad Pitt has been on fire in recent years with the success of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Not only did he receive critical acclaim for the role, but he went on to win the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, the SAG, and the Oscar for his work. After adding all of these awards to his Tinder profile and wiping off his sweat from the forgettable “Ad Astra,” Brad Pitt is back to work releasing another cornerstone of the summer. Albeit this one definitely fits the definition of “summer movie” compared to his outing with Tarantino.

Not only is Pitt the big star this time around in this movie, because joining him you have cast members including Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry, both of whom are likely the best part of the entire story. Their chemistry is undeniable. Some of the major awards ceremonies like the Oscars do not rank on-screen couples or duos, but one awards show that does is the Razzies. If the Razzies decided to give a Worst On-Screen Couple nomination to Tangerine and Lemon, then I think they are high. Their awards body would need to seek a medical professional.

But behind the camera, you have an action director who has been making the rounds in recent years in David Leitch. He is a legend in regards to stuntwork, which he has been credited for in films like “The Matrix Reloaded,” “The Matrix Revolutions,” “300,” “TRON: Legacy,” and even though I do not look back at “Jupiter Ascending” as the best sci-fi film ever, its stunts were never the problem. As a director, his work on “Atomic Blonde,” “Deadpool 2,” and “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” are thrilling to say the least. Therefore, it is nice to see him have another go at an action flick. Overall, I had a ball with Leitch’s latest attempt at delivering some fast-paced glory.

The biggest positive I can give to “Bullet Train” is that the action, per usual, is ridiculously entertaining. While somewhat similar, this outing seems to have a different flair compared to say “Deadpool 2” in terms of how the action is delivered. Let’s imagine… You sat me down to watch this film, and I went in blind. If you told me that this film were directed by Guy Ritchie, I would believe you. It kind of had that same pace that films like “Snatch” and “The Gentlemen” delivered. If anything, “Bullet Train” comes off as what would happen if Guy Ritchie were given some of the tools to direct a “John Wick” movie. Now, “John Wick” is obviously in a different universe, but the action in this movie felt somewhat reminiscent of something I’d see in a more modern, stylized action film such as John Wick. There is a great sequence between Ladybug and Wolf (Bad Bunny) where the latter goes all Jason Voorhees on him and the former’s main defense is a briefcase. It’s ridiculous, but as the review’s title suggests, this ridiculousness lives up to the name. The movie is over two hours and not nearly a minute of the movie feels wasted.

This film is based on a book which I have never read. Therefore, I cannot tell you the differences between the two stories. But what I can tell you is that at times, “Bullet Train,” the movie, feels like a graphic novel or a comic book. There are several shots and sequences that leap off the screen and made me feel like I was in the moment, perhaps in a hyperactive way.

Going back to Tangerine and Lemon, one of my favorite moments in the movie is where we get into this flashback sequence where we reveal how many people they killed. That is the spice this movie needed to individualize itself. It kind of had a “Deadpool” flair, which should not be surprising considering the director’s previous work. And again, it also kind of had the pace of a Guy Ritchie movie. I would love to see more stories told in this style, from this universe. It does not even have to be on the same characters. But if we could get a similarly set story from David Leitch’s mind perhaps, I would want to check it out.

But at the same time, if you ask me, I would rather go back and watch one of David Leitch’s previously mentioned movies. This is not a complete diss on “Bullet Train” because I had a GREAT time with “Bullet Train,” I just think “Atomic Blonde,” “Deadpool 2,” and “Hobbs & Shaw” offer a smidge more of entertainment than “Bullet Train.” Just a smidge. The one thing I can say is that the competition for which David Leitch movie I randomly put on the TV on a Friday night just got a lot harder, because these are all entertaining flicks in their own way. “Atomic Blonde” feels grounded yet fun. “Deadpool 2” is silly yet gory. “Hobbs & Shaw” is absurd yet delightful. “Bullet Train,” if you ask me, is obnoxious yet hilarious. It has the right amount of ridiculous, but it does not go too over the top in an annoying way. Kind of like “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” It is a movie that knows what it is from starts to finish. It starts as a nonsensical spy movie, and ends as an even more nonsensical, but also satisfying spy movie.

Also, I must say, that as someone who grew up with “Thomas the Tank Engine,” this movie is a wonderful tribute to my childhood. You would have to see the movie to understand.

If I had any other comments in regard to “Bullet Train,” the main one that comes to mind, sticking with the ridiculousness, is that the ending is probably some of the most stupid fun I have ever had during any of my recent moviegoing experiences. “Bullet Train” is willing to embrace its ridiculous nature and the ending is just the cherry on top. If you like big, loud action movies, this could be for you. I’d rather watch “John Wick,” but when it comes to being a supposed “John Wick” wannabe, this is a fun ride that you might want to buckle up for.

In the end, “Bullet Train” is probably some of the most fun I have had at the movies this summer. All the actors do their best with the material. And while Brad Pitt does a good job in the movie as Ladybug, the whole story eventually becomes the Tangerine and Lemon show. I would love to see another story with these two as the leads. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry play their parts with excellence. This is a slow month for movies, but if you are looking for something to watch, I would buy a ticket to ride what I would call a fast-paced thrill. I am going to give “Bullet Train” a 7/10.

“Bullet Train” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new A24 film “Bodies Bodies Bodies!” Stay tuned! Also, be on the lookout for my thoughts on “Beast!” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Bullet Train?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite of David Leitch’s films? For me, I gotta say of the ones he’s directed, “Deadpool 2” stands out the most. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Knives Out (2019): 2019’s Pop Culture Murder Mystery Dinner

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“Knives Out” is directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper) and stars… well, pretty much everyone you know. To be completely serious though, “Knives Out” stars Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Exposed), Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger, Gifted), Daniel Craig (Skyfall, Logan Lucky), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Scream Queens), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Shape of Water), Don Johnson (Miami Vice, Nash Bridges), Toni Collette (Hereditary, The Sixth Sense), Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You, Get Out), Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why, Love, Simon), Jaeden Martell (It, The Book of Henry), and Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World, The Sound of Music). Holy crap, that’s a lot of names.

“Knives Out” takes place in the middle of Massachusetts and it typically centers around the interactions of a family after the death of a patriarch. Everybody gathers around a large house, everybody’s got a story, everybody’s got a motivation, but it is also up to a detective (Daniel Craig) to settle everyone down and find out the truth regarding what happened.

The murder mystery genre for me is kind of like horror, because I never take too many chances to dive into the genre itself. Granted, horror, at least to me, is a tad more predictable because it seems to have more of a staying power in today’s society, so I personally prefer the murder mystery genre. In fact, my favorite “Family Guy” episode ever, “And Then There Were Fewer,” is a murder mystery, so I do have some respect for the genre. And honestly, when it comes to Rian Johnson, I will admit that I have had a slight bad taste in my mouth because of the way he handled “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” It’s a film that just got significantly worse after I first saw it. In fact, when I watched it a second time, I was kind of turned off by the result. I say that because I wanted the movie to go in a different direction than say “The Empire Strikes Back,” which is a great movie. However, despite the everlasting love and affection I have for 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” one minor flaw with that movie is the way they manage to basically rehash the earliest “Star Wars.” Granted, it’s a fantastic homage which had many repeat viewings for me. But as much as I originally appreciated it for going in a different direction, a lot of the choices they made to go in such a direction were sort of faulty and questionable.

However, having seen that movie, I now know that Johnson might as well be one to subvert expectations. Here’s the thing. Murder mysteries are supposed to keep you guessing. If this movie could keep me on the edge of my seat and questioning everything, then I’d walk out satisfied.

Honestly, I went into this movie with an idea of what is going to be. It turns out, I got something better than what I thought I would get. And that says a lot because the hype behind this movie felt real for me. The production design is some of the best I have seen all year. The acting, not to mention casting in general, is perfect. Everyone from Daniel Craig to Ana De Armas to Toni Collette, everyone served their roles properly and put a smile on my face.

I’ll just say though, I think the two most popular award ceremonies that have to with movies are the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. I have had a history of talking about both ceremonies on here, especially the Academy. But I never usually talk about another popular ceremony, the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards. One of the biggest awards they present on the night of the ceremony is one given to the entire ensemble of actors. We still have about a month left before 2019 is over, and a little longer than that until the ceremony takes place, but I’d argue that at this point, “Knives Out” has an extremely solid chance at winning such an award. I think purely based on how Rian Johnson has to handle so many actors at once, many of whom happened to already establish their name in the industry, including a couple who are a bit lesser known, there is a chance “Knives Out” could walk away with the biggest award from that ceremony.

One of the more solid examples that could let that case be true is Daniel Craig, who plays Benoit Blanc in the film. His performance, was part of what set the tone for the entire movie for me. Daniel Craig, while taking his performance seriously, realizes that this movie is sort of supposed to be fun. His introduction scene almost made me think I was watching something from Wes Anderson, because it is charming, quirky, and based on the way it was directed, I was perhaps hypnotized to leave the film, regardless of whether or not I liked it, admiring Craig in all his glory.

Another standout performer to me is one of the leads, Chris Evans. I think most of what I love about this performance has mainly to do with the screenplay and how the character is written. I say that because the movie is full of tense dialogue between characters, which allows serious vibes to kick in, but Evans manages to play a character who is incredibly laid back and sort of a smartass. Do I think other people could have played his character? Personally, yes, I think I could have played it if I tried, because if I were in this situation, this is probably how I would act. I’d try to have fun with the seriousness at hand, while also trying to deal with the current situation.

As for smaller roles, I think there are a number of them that stand out. Jamie Lee Curtis, Jaeden Martell, but the one I want to talk about is the one given by Toni Collette. I think Collette is not only a great performer here, but brought such life to her character that I cannot imagine anyone else bringing at all, or at least without being cringeworthy. Collette’s character sort of reminds me of a crazy aunt who likes to party. Maybe another good example is the mother from ABC’s “The Goldbergs,” minus the toxic affection she has for offspring. In a way, she’s almost like Chris Evans’ character, because as much as everyone else may be moody or depressed, which she kind of is at times, but still, she has a somewhat happy outlook on current happenings. Either that or she may just have some sort of God-given charisma that nobody else can have.

But if you ask me, I think the best performance in the film is given by Ana de Armas, an actress who I personally happened to have liked before this film came out, and someone who may been the main reason why this film was originally put on my radar. For the record, Ana de Armas was one of the supporting roles in my 2nd favorite film of 2017, and one of my favorite sci-fi films of the decade, “Blade Runner 2049.” She has this ability to take a challenging role and own it. Because in that movie she played a holographic woman that was supposed to have a connection to whoever owned them. The complexity of that role involved being someone who is robotic enough to serve their master, while also being human enough to understand emotion, because in that movie she was someone who happened to be in love with the main character. At the same time, it was almost as if she was a product of the main character’s desires.

As for this movie, we get more of a glance at a character where Ana de Armas has a personality where she is more worried about saving herself. In fact, I mentioned earlier that Daniel Craig presented himself as this quirky, out of nowhere detective. If you ask me, I think the biggest quirk in the movie didn’t necessarily come from him, and instead, came from Ana de Armas. Because she plays a character who practically cannot lie. If all other people were like her, she’d make the lie detector test obsolete. I say that because her character cannot tell a lie, otherwise she throws up. This makes every scene where Armas is forced to tell a truth or where she is being questioned all the more intriguing because not only was I, as an audience member, hypnotized to follow the mystery as it was unraveled, but I was also somewhat concerned for the character’s sanity, health, and sense of self.

From a technical standpoint, the cinematography in the film is amazing. The various dutch angles fit a number of the scenes and sort of had an old Hollywood vibe. The music is outstanding. By the way, such music is composed by Rian Johnson’s cousin, Nathan Johnson, who also worked with him in films like “Brick” and “Looper.” I think Rian Johnson could have a chance for being nominated in the Best Director category, I think his vision helped this movie immensely. This honestly feels like a movie that only he could have done. Maybe one or two other people could do this, but this feels like a personal project. And as much as I despise “The Last Jedi,” I could see what Rian Johnson was trying to do with that movie, because he not only directed that film, but he wrote it as well. “Star Wars” to me, must be a more collaborative piece of media to work on at this point, and with “The Force Awakens” pointing in a certain direction, it admittedly feels odd looking back to see one man with perhaps a sole vision take over for a big film that could expand on previous lore and build up to the next one which happens to conclude a trilogy. These are the kinds of films that I would prefer to see Johnson tackle. Could he do another big franchise in the future? Maybe, but I want to see more of his original work. Media that feels like something only he could own.

I honestly don’t even know what problems come to mind with “Knives Out.” The camerawork is some of the best I have seen all year. The characters are all charismatic. The screenplay is nothing short of outstanding. The ending, as well done as it is, is little choppy in buildup. As for other problems, if there are any, they are a bit hard to point out. Overall, this movie kicks ass!

In the end, “Knives Out,” the movie with perhaps the most badass title of all time, packs a brutal punch of bloody goodness. It is easily one of the best movies of the year, and a step in the right direction for Rian Johnson as a filmmaker. I have not checked out his earlier work, but I really want to check out “Looper.” Films like these are the ones I’ll be excited for when it comes to Rian Johnson’s filmography. Films that are original, exhilarating, and keep me on the edge of my seat. If I have to say one more thing, I will suggest that you’d go see this movie with the biggest crowd you can. If you have one of those theaters with reserved seating near you, buy your tickets online and see how many people have already reserved seats. If there many seats reserved already, I implore you, PLEASE buy a ticket to that show because this is a movie where crowd reactions enhance the experience to the tenth degree. I’m going to give “Knives Out” a 9/10.

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Thanks for reading this review! Just want to announce to everyone reading that during this Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to be showing off my newest trailer for “Top Movies of the 2010s,” a project I plan to release this January, it is going to be the most ambitious countdown series I have done yet, and I cannot wait to share it with you all! If you want to be notified about this trailer, here’s what you can do. Follow Scene Before with an email, or if you want greater access, use a WordPress account! If you are on Facebook, check out MY PAGE and give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Knives Out?” What did you think about it? Or, who happens to be your favorite fictional dysfunctional family? It can be from anything, books, movies, TV, you name it! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!