The Wizard of Lies (2017) – A look behind the scenes at Bernie Madoff’s massive Ponzi scheme, how it was perpetrated on the public and the trail of destruction it left in its wake, both for the victims and Madoff’s family.
An interesting attempt to weave a story line on the Madoff ponzi scheme but one that in the end is disjoint, incomplete, and largely unsatisfying. It certainly falls far short of other great financial movies the Big Short, Margin Call, and Smartest Guys in the Room, to name a few. Worth watching but not likely a movie to savor, add closure, provide moral assurance, or make you feel anything. Too many moving pieces that lack grounding the timeline has no center and the flashbacks and jumps forward are too disjoint, too many supporting characters are painted as morally ambiguous, and the many defrauded clients are nameless and faceless.
As for the some of the details, it’s hard to get around Michelle Pfeiffer accent. It may be spot-on but the voice is just annoying. Add in Robert De Niro’s unbalanced intonations and a discordant soundtrack and sound-editing and it is not a movie that will sit well with your ears.
It should have been done as a 3-4 part mini-series. They would have had a lot more time to not only relay the full time line and details of the case but also go into the many interesting sub-stories and tragedies. For example, the efforts of Harry Markopolos to unmask the fraud is addressed only by showing Bernie and Ruth watching 30 seconds of testimony on the TV in their condo. The questions of the hundreds of millions potentially transferred to London accounts for the benefit of Madoff relatives is not explored. The ineptitude of the SEC, FINRA and other agencies is also given short-shrift. Did you know that Shana Madoff, the chief compliance officer and niece of Bernie Madoff, married an Assistant Director of the Office of Compliance Investigations and Examinations at the SEC. They met in 2003 when he was performing an examination as to whether Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme. The SEC Director of Compliance Investigations and Examinations attended their wedding in 2007.
As it is, the movie dips its toe into the $64.8B (yes $64.8 billion) fraud case and provides some insights as to who in the inner circle may or may not have been culpable all in the course largely telling a family drama. Interesting and entertaining, yes. A good film, meh. Disappointing for what it could have been, most definitely.
Original titleThe Wizard of Lies
IMDb Rating6.8 13,918 votes
TMDb Rating6.5 votes