Rotten Tomatoes (*), Letterboxd (1/5), Imdb.com (2/10)
Given this picture’s much-maligned reputation, one might legitimately wonder why anybody would want to watch it. For me, doing so was more of an exercise in curiosity than anything else, to see if it really is as bad as everyone has been saying it is. However, unfortunately, after sitting through it and severely testing my resolve to stay awake, I’m sad to report that it lives up to every bit of what’s been said about it. It’s hard to believe that a writer-director as talented as David O. Russell, who has created such impressive works as “Flirting with Disaster” (1996), “The Fighter” (2010) and “American Hustle” (2013), could create something so far off the mark as this wayward offering. Yet this convoluted mess of a movie, which comically attempts to tell a fact-based story about the exposure of a nefarious conspiracy theory, hopelessly fails by never finding its stride, a product of its meandering, unfocused script. While the subject may be one worthy of exploration (though this particular scenario isn’t especially compelling or overly revelatory), the film never latches on to the right tone or approach to tell it. The picture’s attempt to do so through a half-hearted stab at a screwball comedy doesn’t work, either, mainly due to poor pacing and humor that just never sticks its landings. All of this is unfortunate, too, given the film’s excellent production design, superb original score and fine stellar cast (Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Robert De Niro, Rami Malek, Chris Rock, Michael Shannon, Mike Myers, Andrea Riseborough, Alessandro Nivola, Anya Taylor-Joy, Zoe Saldana, Matthias Schoenaerts, Taylor Swift and a host of colorful character actors), most of whom are sadly given little to work with. As a result, what was once considered one of the most anticipated releases of the year has turned out to be one of 2022’s greatest critical failures, not to mention one of its biggest box office bombs. But, then, that’s not entirely unexpected from a film that loses its viewers early on in the story and never manages to retrieve them. Those who are genuinely (or, perhaps more accurately, morbidly) curious about this cinematic fiasco can catch it online or on cable TV if one is really interested, but keep your pillows handy, and be sure to pack a lunch.