I’m personally heartbroken by David O. Russell‘s Amsterdam (20th Century, 10.7) I was so perplexed and confounded, I was almost in tears. How could a movie by a brilliant A-level director turn out this heebie-jeebie and wackadoodle?

I’m sorry but Amsterdam is pretty close to a disaster — a very busy and antsy period movie about an arcane, who-cares? bumblebee plot (something to do with ascendant U.S. fascism in the early 1930s) that won’t stop lurching to and fro and buzzing all around, and is totally irksome for that.

It’s all plot and exposition, plot and exposition, plot and exposition…jabber jabber, talk talk…over and over and over. No subtext, no heart, no downshifting, no “things that are there but not said.” I was having serious trouble trying to understand who was who and what was happening for the first hour. Only when Robert DeNiro‘s character (“General Gil Dillenbeck”) comes along at the 100-minute mark does the rubber begin to meet the road.

Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington are pallie-wallies who first get together in the wake of World War I, and who reconvene in 1933 Manhattan.

Bale’s scarred, glass-eyed face struck me as an odd, meaningless distraction. Washington and Robbie share a deep attraction to each other but it goes nowhere and amounts to zero. For whatever reason Russell doesn’t show them being the slightest bit intimate. The reticence is strange.

There’s no question in my mind that Russell is a gifted madman, a firecracker, a genius. But something went horribly wrong this time. Seriously, this struck me as one of the worst films from a major director that I’ve ever seen in my life. Right up there with Michael Cimino‘s Heaven’s Gate, Brian DePalma‘s The Black Dahlia and Francis Coppola‘s Twixt.

Russell was on fire between Flirting With Disaster, Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook — call it 16 or 17 years. I wasn’t as much of a fan of American Hustle but we’ll let that go. All I know is that the spirit gods seem to have flown away and Russell hasn’t gotten airborne in nearly a decade. Shattering.

I feel so badly for the guy. I’m beside myself with grief. The reviews are mostly awful and this thing is going to sink like a stone when Joe and Jane Popcorn get a taste.

Russell needs to go simpler, smaller. A crazy family movie of some kind. No more films about greed and conniving and big evil shadowy plots.

I’m very, very sorry. I don’t know what else to say except when you fall down you need to pick yourself up and get back on the horse. Better inspiration next time.