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Review: The Laundromat on Netflix

Keith Higgons

Posted on October 20, 2019 09:48

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Steven Soderbergh's new movie about the Panama Papers.

Whatever you may think of his oeuvre, he’s never been a boring filmmaker. Steven Soderbergh’s new Netflix movie, The Laundromat, is a few things, but boring isn’t among them.

Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns have collaborated a few times before on equally heady subjects, so tackling the Panama Papers is certainly in their wheelhouse. 

Toplined by Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, and Antonio Banaderas, the film is peppered with A-List cameos. 

To be fair, I’d watch Steven Soderbergh direct a still photograph. He makes interesting choices. Always. And Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman are two of the best actors of any generation. Again, always interesting. Scott Z. Burns is a very effective writer — so all the ingredients are there.

To re-cap, The Laundromat has:

  • A great director
  • A great screenwriter
  • A great cast
  • Great source material
  • A topical and relevant subject

So, what could go wrong?

The good news is, nothing. The bad news? Nothing. 

Oldman and Banderas represent Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, respectively. These two men were the sacrificial faces of the Panama Papers and owners of the Panamanian law firm Mossack & Fonseca, the firm where 95% of the work consisted of “selling vehicles to avoid taxes”, according to the 2016 leak that became the Panama Papers. Admittedly, not a thrilling subject.

The Laundromat just seems forcefully contrived and a little too punchy in its delivery. It’s cheeky. And I don’t think the topic of rich people and corporations burying their money in shell corporations to avoid lawsuits and taxes is a topic that should be cheeky.

The subject doesn’t need to be Terms of Endearment or The Godfather, but it’s not an amusing topic to those of us who do pay taxes and don’t operate in that 1% world. 

But the film does a fine job of keeping you engaged as the leads attempt to explain the arcane methodology of money laundering.

The last few minutes as the three principles (Streep, Oldman, and Banderas) address the viewer and wander off and on to the sound-stage is a silly conceit. I get it, but that’s a real big swing and miss. 

The film ends with Streep walking through the sound-stage, shedding her character and morphing back into herself until she delivers a pseudo call to arms. The scene has teeth, but no bite.

The cheeky approach of The Laundromat almost reinforces the Trumpian idea of “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?” I’m not so sure that is the best message for these times.

The Laundromat tells you to forget what you’ve heard, the meek won’t inherit the earth, deal with it. 

I might expect this sort of approach and delivery from a film student but not the people involved here.

While he hasn’t always made great creative choices, they’ve been interesting ones. Within the Steven Soderbergh oeuvre, The Laundromat fits. 

And the last image of Meryl Streep? Just awful.

Keith Higgons

Posted on October 20, 2019 09:48

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Source: Engadget

A judge in Connecticut has refused to block the release of The Laundromat, which arrived on Netflix today. Earlier this week,...

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