AMSTERDAM is a mystery about two World War I veterans and a nurse who uncover a plot in 1933 by rich businessmen to stage a fascist coup against President Roosevelt. Two World War I veterans in New York, a black lawyer named Harold, and a white physician named Burt, reunite with their wartime nurse, Valerie, to stop the plot. The businessmen want a general named Dillenbeck, who’s admired by veterans across the country, to lead a fascist march on Washington to oust Roosevelt. Dillenbeck agrees to speak at Burt and Harold’s upcoming army reunion to smoke out the plotters.
AMSTERDAM’s story's plot is too complicated. The movie’s also marred by frequent asides about the personal lives of the three protagonists, and a flashback that interrupts the main story to tell the back story of the three protagonists. AMSTERDAM also has lots of foul language, brief extreme violence, references to drug addiction, and a Romantic worldview with some Bohemian, anti-capitalist, socialist, politically correct implications. MOVIEGUIDE® commends AMSTERDAM’s performances, opposition to fascism and support for veterans but advises extreme caution.
(RoRo, PC, Acap, So, B, ACAC, PP, LLL, VVV, S, A, DD, M):
Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Strong Romantic worldview overall with some politically correct, anti-capitalist, socialist implications, including a light political correct attitude about race relations in America, but movie has a strong attitude against national socialism or fascism and strong support for veterans who risked their lives for freedom, especially wounded veterans, though it doesn’t seem to have an issue with FDR’s big government socialist programs, which actually failed to stop the Great Depression and probably lengthened it (both President Hoover and FDR spent too much taxpayer money instead of cutting taxes and spending and government regulations, the real cure for recessions and depressions)
18 obscenities, 10 light profanities
Brief extreme violence includes wounded soldiers clasp bloody hands together, bloody war wounds shown, nurse removes bullets and shrapnel from bodies and faces of two soldiers, a bloody autopsy is shown, disturbing traffic accident shows woman shoved into the street, and a car running, some shooting and fighting, and a fantasy scene shows man and woman having bloody cheeks after being shot
Implied fornication and living together
Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
Smoking and doctor becomes addicted to morphine, a scene shows him injecting himself in an alley (he recovers), doctor creates various pain pills for the wounded veterans who are his patients, and man gives mysterious eyedrops to woman and another man to cure pain, and they all appear a bit stoned afterwards; and,
Killer frames two innocent men for murder, a side character keeps saying only the black suspect will end up in jail, characters visit a forced sterilization facility, and there’s a secret “fascist” plot to overthrow an American president.
AMSTERDAM is a mystery thriller about two World War I veterans and a nurse who uncover a plot in 1933 by a small cabal of businessmen to stage a fascist coup against President Roosevelt. Based on historical incidents, AMSTERDAM is a well-acted, suspenseful thriller, but it’s marred by a complicated plot, frequent asides about the personal lives of the three protagonists, a flashback featuring the back story of the protagonists, lots of foul language, brief extreme violence, references to drug addiction, and a Romantic worldview with some Bohemian, anti-capitalist, socialist, politically correct implications.
The movie is a fictionalized account of a story that broke in the press in November 1934. In 1933, Major General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history at the time and a highly respected leader of veteran groups, had started denouncing capitalism, bankers, industrialists, and other big business leaders. Then, in November 1934, he publicly claimed to a reporter that a small group of big businessmen, involving bankers and industrialists, had tried to get him to lead a fascist coup against President Roosevelt. He said the people behind the coup were coordinating their efforts with the American Legion and with national socialist, or fascist, groups linked to Mussolini and Hitler. Congress formed a committee to hear testimony from Butler and Gerald C. MacGuire, the Wall Street broker Butler said had contacted him about leading the coup. MacGuire, however, denied the plot, but died mysteriously of pneumonia shortly thereafter. Eventually, the committee decided to redact the business names Butler cited as being behind the coup because it counted as hearsay. However, the committee’s final report admitted that correspondence from MacGuire corroborated much of Butler’s other testimony. It also decided that such a coup was contemplated, discussed and planned, including a plan for Butler to lead veterans in a fascist march on Washington.
The movie fictionalizes this story. It changes the name of Major General Butler to General Gil Dillenbeck and hires Robert De Niro to play the General.
The movie opens in 1933. Two World War I veterans in New York, a black lawyer named Harold Woodman, and a white physician named Burt Berendsen, who treats wounded vets, are asked by the daughter of their commanding officer to do an autopsy on her dead father, who’s now a Senator. Burt and Irma, a black female doctor from the morgue, determine that the Senator was poisoned. The daughter tries to go see General Dillenbeck, the last man to talk with her father on his most recent trip back from Europe. However, she’s pushed under a car, and the killer accuses Burt and Harold. The crowd joins, and Burt and Harold skedaddle.
Burt then narrates how he and Harold met. Their commanding officer was placed in charge of Harold’s black regiment. He appointed Burt to replace the regiment’s racist doctor, and Harold and Burt became fast friends. Later, however, both men were seriously wounded, with Burt losing his right eye. They were attended by a beautiful nurse, Valerie. Harold and Valerie fall in love, and Valerie convinces Harold and Burt to join her in Amsterdam after the war.
For a while, they all have a beautiful Bohemian time in Amsterdam, but Burt decides to return to his estranged wife, Beatrice, whose rich Fifth Avenue parents had convinced Burt to join the army. Burt thinks the parents wanted to get him out of the way, but he hopes that, if he returns to Beatrice as a war hero, they will welcome him back and help him set up a practice on Fifth Avenue. They don’t, however, and Beatrice kicks him out of the house. So, Burt ends up having a practice serving wounded veterans and starting a veterans organization with their black regiment.
Back in the present, Burt and Harold’s investigation leads them to a rich man named Tom Vose. They have a problem getting into seeing him, but they discover, to their surprise, that Valerie is actually Tom’s sister. Valerie is sickly, however, and Tom’s wife, Libby, tries hard to keep her confined to their mansion. Despite this, Valerie gets Burt and Harold into seeing her brother. He recommends that they also get General Dillenbeck to speak at their upcoming reunion for the black regiment.
When they finally get in to see the General, he leads them to the plot to stage a coup against President Roosevelt. He agrees to speak at the reunion, to smoke out the plotters.
AMSTERDAM is a complicated fairy tale. The story is linked to two major incidents in 20th Century American history, World War I and veteran protests in the early 1930s about how they were being treated, and a minor incident, the Business Plot, an alleged conspiracy in 1933 and 1934 to stage a fascist coup against President Roosevelt. The movie is well-acted, but it’s marred by a complicated plot, frequent asides about the personal lives and quirks of the three protagonists, and a flashback that interrupts the main plot to give important facts about the back story of the protagonists.
AMSTERDAM also has lots of foul language, including many light profanities, and some brief extreme violence that includes bloody war wounds, a disturbing traffic accident and an autopsy scene. There’s also a reference to Burt becoming addicted to morphine when he returns to America. Burt also is shown developing various pain medications for the vets he treats, including himself. In another scene, Valerie’s brother offers Burt and his wife some eyedrops “from Europe” to treat their pain, and it puts the three characters into a slight stupor.
Finally, AMSTERDAM has a Romantic worldview with some politically correct implications. In the movie, the city of Amsterdam represents a place of liberation and freedom for the two veterans and the nurse. For example, in Amsterdam, Harold and Valerie are free to pursue their interracial romance whereas in America at that time they wouldn’t. When Burt leaves to return to America and be with his rich wife, it also breaks up Harold’s relationship with Valerie. Harold labels Burt’s obsession with his wife “following the wrong god,” because he sees it as Burt wanting to be with her for her money, not for herself. In the same way, the businessmen behind the planned coup are seen as greedy money-grubbers.
Otherwise, however, the movie doesn’t get into the political details of General Butler’s attacks on capitalism and support for socialism (eventually, Butler believed that the four wars and military actions in Central America and Mexico he fought were just imperialist adventures to make money for Big Business and their political allies. Nor does it discuss the details behind the coup and its exposure to the public, including its economic background (for example, when Roosevelt took office, many top businessmen were afraid Roosevelt’s policies would undermine the gold standard and lead to inflation). Also, for example, the real Gerald MacGuire actually visited Europe for a time to study how Mussolini and Hitler used veteran groups to support their national socialist movements. Hitler was himself a World War I veteran who was upset about how Europe and America treated Germany after the war.
Even so, AMSTERDAM still has some anti-capitalist, pro-socialist implications in the way it tells this story. It doesn’t go as far or as strident as the real Major General Butler did in condemning capitalism and supporting socialism, but it does attack Big Business and greed and seems to side with President Roosevelt and his New Deal policies of nascent socialism. Also, by promoting two interracial relationships for its two male protagonists (including the one beginning between the white doctor and the black pathologist), the movie seems slightly politically correct on the subject of race relations. AMSTERDAM has the whiff of a leftist agenda, but not the full stink.
All things considered, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for AMSTERDAM. We commend the movie’s strong stance against national socialism, or fascism, but the movie has too much objectionable content to be more family friendly.
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