Soderbergh’s Netflix entry spends too much on the cast and less on the style and charisma.
Director Steven Soderbergh is a filmmaker who plays the money game on film like a piano. His features, including the “Ocean’s Eleven” franchise and “Logan Lucky,” have their own unique styles of stealing money, and we, the audience, are arguably amazed at how his characters are able to pull off the robberies.
His next movie, “The Laundromat,” focuses more about the corruption of insurance companies and the people associated with them. He even guides Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas as two owners of the Mossack Fonseca law firm, who offer segments about how money makes the world go round, and how people are swindled. And while I can’t really recommend the movie, it does play like a whistleblower. It may play like a whistleblower, but I felt it lacked the magic and surprises of Soderbergh’s previous entries.
The movie will be released on Netflix in a few weeks, and for now, it will be shown in select theaters. I caught a screening of it at the IFC Center in New York City, and I felt it was given a Netflix look. It often looks cheesy with some disaster sequences and a dream sequence where Meryl Streep’s character Ellen Martin attacks an insurance company with a shot gun.
There are a few stories here with little to no pay-offs.
One involves a boat tour guide (Robert Patrick), whose insurance company can’t give him insurance on the boat, following an accident that kills 21 people, including Ellen’s husband (James Cromwell). David Schwimmer is the lawyer who provides him the bad news.
Ellen has found a Vegas unit which has already been sold, and Sharon Stone is the agent who informs her about her misfortune. Throughout this movie, she tries to get word about her settlement money, but to no avail; while Streep poses as a Panamanian secretary in the Mossack Fonseca building.
Another story features a businessman named Charles (Nonso Anozie), whose daughter Simone (Jessica Allain) catches him sleeping with her college roommate (Miracle Washington). He offers her a bribe: to take over one of his companies (worth $20 million) as long as she doesn’t tell her mother about his affair. This is more of a sexist portrayal with strong women and no inspiration.
And the third is rather a dull and lifeless one. Matthias Shoeanaerts as a corrupt salesman travels to China, where he makes his fatal mistake. This looks more or less like a Coen Brothers film, and I’d say “less,” because of the lackluster choices made here.
“The Laundromat” spends too much on the cast (with cameos from Jeffrey Wright, Will Forte, Chris Parnell, etc.) and less on the style of Soderbergh’s best work. He is an effective filmmaker, who has his own charismatic choices of direction, but even with writer/producer Scott Z. Burns’ assistance, the movie never really goes anywhere. It just assumes that just because “The Big Short” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” were Oscar contenders, then it can only focus on the money.
The stars I did like were Banderas, Oldman, Streep, Anozie, and Swimmer. They, at the very least, keep themselves from being consumed by the dough, and by allowing themselves to study the corruption of this world. People are always getting swindled by big moguls or companies, and this movie would love to represent that as evil.
It’s always fun to hear these people talk about the big game, but “The Laundromat” still doesn’t cut it.
Now playing in New York and Los Angeles
Coming to Netflix October 18