If you've ever wanted to watch a film composed almost entirely of unblinking, flatly delivered expository dialogue, give Amsterdam a try. This may sound like a negative review, but I had a fantastic time watching this A-list ensemble recite monologues like they were rehearsing for their 8th-grade group project final.
Christian Bale manages his most eccentric Al Pacino impression and stuffs some spirit into his character, though the script tries its hardest to work against him. Every line tells the audience 16 details about all 240 characters, but the plot remains needlessly convoluted. Certain elements — a violent murder, wartime surgery, talk of systemic eugenics, etc, are shot as comedy.
The subject matter is a bit grim and allegedly Based on a True Story. It's unclear whether that was intentional or not, but if a grisly death sequence sends members of the audience to the floor with laughter (true story), you'd have to hope the choice is deliberate. In which case, why?
It seems an odd plot to make into a wacky whodunnit. It's not successful as a farce, either, as there are far too many grandiose monologues and essay-closing sunset declarations. Plus, the whole opening is shot like an early episode of Cribs, complete with inconsistent voiceover. Fans of miscast, underacted, comedically inscrutable films like Southland Tales should give Amsterdam a try (not just me, I hope?). I highly recommend it.