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Visiting Amsterdam

Amsterdam makes a great tourist destination but its promise fades in David O. Russell’s newest movie. Russell starts big, partly from his own major reputation for creating intelligent yet popular films like Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle where he worked well with important concepts and guided actors Robert De Niro and Christian Bale to serious awards attention. Reteaming with those two, he puts such top talents as Margot Robbie and John David Washington into the mix, fashioning them as characters who find themselves enmeshed in an odd scheme to upend the U.S. government. The plan comes from history, but many specifics and characters emerge from Russell’s imagination as he reshapes the past into a more tolerant world, a wishful notion with a speedy start that veers off-course near the finish line. Before that finale, snappy narration, enjoyable performances, and excellent set pieces highlight a 1930s mystery as two friends race to prove themselves innocent of murder. Their paths cross with distinct characters played by an impressive cast including Taylor Swift, Chris Rock, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana, and Anya Taylor-Joy who all provide their own amusing traits. But lightness disappears as plot elements investigate political power struggles in a heavy-handed manner that lacks subtlety when it cries out warning shots about current events. The effect curdles rather than blends with the rest of the movie’s tone.

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