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Amsterdam (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

David O. Russell returned to theaters back in October with the star heavy cast ensemble film Amsterdam. This marked his first film since 2015’s Joy. Leading the charge of this one were Margot Robbie, John David Washington and Christian Bale. This “don’t make them like they used to” type movie didn’t really sizzle at the box office and was trounced by the run of horror phenomenon Smile. Thus, it came and went, and with it probably a lot of awards hopefulness next year. However, you can see it for yourself when it arrives on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray on December 6th, complete with a Dolby Atmos track and featurette on the film. You can order yourself a copy of Amsterdam by using the paid Amazon Associates link that follows this review at the bottom of the page.

Film

Written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker David O. Russell comes an original crime epic about three close friends who find themselves at the center of one of the most shocking secret plots in American history. Based on facts that meet fiction, the film stars Academy Award® winner Christian Bale, two-time Oscar® nominee Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Alessandro Nivola, Andrea Riseborough, Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Rock, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Shannon, Mike Myers, Taylor Swift, Timothy Olyphant, Zoe Saldana with Oscar winner Rami Malek and two-time Academy Award winner Robert DeNiro.

Amsterdam should be something that works on a miniscule level, but it doesn’t quite manage to just run off purely enjoying great actors sharing scenes together. Everyone in said cast is here, playing someone goofy and chewing up scenery, but that goodwill winds up running before an hour has even passed and the surround story and sequences don’t really throw out any kind of added value to give it a second wind at all.

At the heart of Amsterdam is an investigation of a potential murder with possible political implications. Something that that should be thrilling, even in a more comedic fashion. However, the film film feels like its not all too interested in all of that. The movie, rightfully, likes to let its performers go in the moments, but they aren’t too investigation focused. Not helping things is that right as the first act turn hits, we get a whole backstory flashback that isn’t all too interesting or much added information. Said expository “how did we all meet” sequence is overlong, uninteresting, not too reflective on the result of the mystery and sags the film down right from the get-go.

Our cast here is game and enjoys putting on silly hats, make up and more. I don’t know what it is, but scenes feel like the actors are giving it, but perhaps its not being capture in the right way. These folks are peculiar or zany but there’s no real energy to the cinematography and lighting. Its a very traditional, very drama dressed looking film. There’s almost too much sense of grounding visually to really assist and help accentuate these big performances. It almost feels like its weighing them down. It almost feels like if you were on set for this movie, you’d feel like this was going to be really fun, funny and have a sort of “pow” taking it in. Instead it feels like its been sort of neutered with its colors and lighting.

I was hoping maybe I’d be one who’d like Amsterdam more than most. But, I found it hard to keep from mentally checking out on the film. I loved the performers, I thought they were giving me what I want from them, but that goodwill fades away after a while and you want the movie to just be more interesting in some sort of way. Perhaps its too much voice over telling and not enough showing or allowing the audience to feel like they are apart of it. Its almost asking us to keep our distance from the proceedings. Which is a shame, because everybody here in front of and behind the camera seems like they should have delivered on this one.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review from the standard Blu-ray, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Amsterdam debuts on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray a native 4K title being finished with 4K digital intermediate. Its a fine image, but not one that really offers anything stunning. The film looks sharp with rock solid details and good color saturation. There’s not much pop to it and depth is solid, but it feels like the film could have looked more impressive on the format, though this isn’t anywhere near being subpar.

Depth: Depth of field is solid with some nice space in the frame and featuring confident actor and camera movements. No issues occur with any motion distortions causing blur or jitter.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural. It hands shadow and dark surfaces very well, including different shades/textures/patterns and fine details in even some of the darkest corners. No crushing issues witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors have a natural look to them and are well saturated throughout the picture. There’s not a whole lot of opportunity for any sort of glow or pop in the film. Reds come across quite bold and rich, however.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures are easily discernible from any reasonable distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English Audio Description 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, French 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Amsterdam features a rather soft Dolby Atmos track. While there’s a nice balance, depth and layering here in this mix, it comes off as feeling like the volume is low and its not really all encompassing in the room. Vocals are front and center, but many other moments and scenes feel they could have been much louder.

Height: Not really a lot of notable activity from the top channel. Things are rather quiet and there are no real obvious moments, though I’m sure its active.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer really flourishes here in the big band music with the bass and drums. Other effects sounds like engines, punches, gunfire and glass shattering carry a solid thump.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a more front heavy mix, though the side and rear channels do provide more than just ambiance in some more active sequences. Sound travel does come accurate and has some light forces as it roll through the room back and forth and side to side.

Dialogue Reproduction: The focal point of this mix is the vocals, which are clear and crisp. They do feel warming and sort of relaxed which sort of goes with the overall soft vibe of the mix.

Extras

Amsterdam comes with the Blu-ray edition and a redeemable digital code.

Welcome To Amsterdam (HD, 15:30) – The cast and crew reflect on the film and their characters. Its inspired by ideas from David O. Russell and Christian Bale (whom Russell calls a “terrific muse”). They focus on how they added these fictional characters to a real historical event many may not have known before. Character creation and actor preparation is a lot of the focus of this as is much of the historical content. John David Washington says “I don’t think I actually met the real Christian Bale until we wrapped.”

Summary

Despite a big name cast all playing goofy characters, Amsterdam manages to fall flat. The film arrives on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray comes with rock solid video presentation and a well mixed, but softer sounding audio track. Extras include just one decent featurette. This is definitely a rental first before buying if someone is interested type movie.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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