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The Laundromat


The Laundromat
Oscar winning director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) anchors a highly theatrical look at a poison that could someday completely destroy the world's economy called The Laundromat that begins as a look into insurance fraud that balloons into so much more, though the viewpoint from which Soderbergh chooses to share this story is questionable, to say the least.

The opening credits of this 2019 Netflix film reveals that it's "based on secrets", which initially confuses the viewer but becomes clearer as the story progresses. Oscar winner Meryl Streep plays Ellen Martin, a widow who lost her husband on a tourist boat which killed 20 other people as well as her husband. Outraged by the settlement she received regarding her husband's death, Ellen begins an investigation that leads to a shell company in Panama, which was set up by a Panama law firm headed by Jurgen Mossack (Oscar winner Gary Oldman) and Ramon Fonseca (Antonio Banderas), who have been setting up shell companies globally, that all lead the viewer into stories revealing the ramifications of what these guys have done including murder, bribery, extortion, tax evasion, and human organ trafficking, and the eventual downfall of it all, which was eventually documented in something called the Panama Papers.

Scott Z. Burns' merciless screenplay, based on a book by Jake Bernstein, strips bare the tragic and sometimes deadly consequences of what these two lawyers are doing, but the approach taken here, specifically, that we're told the story from Mossack and Fonseca's point of view, completely forsaking the 4th wall and talking directly to the camera, with these two guys trying to legitimize what they were doing and making them look like misunderstood martyrs, which, of course, they are not. The pair are observed telling their story from several different locations, depicting them living lives of luxury while Ellen Martin still has not found any answers, a Panama businessman is able to set up an entire second identity, a West Indies millionaire can buy his daughter's silence with a shell company, and a Chinese couple begin a profitable business trafficking human organs. In some cases, the simplicity of what these people are doing triggers their greed and having them go too far. At one point in the narration, we are even told that Soderbegh owns one of these companies, which puts a real stink on everything we've seen this far.

During the final act of this horrific story, Soderbergh obliterates the 4th wall completely and pontificates on what we have seen, the most disturbing aspect being the fact that these two lawyers only spent three months in jail for what they did. It was also a downer that we never really get resolution to any stories, especially poor Ellen Martin.

Soderbergh was afforded a huge budget for this film, evidenced in the round the world location shooting and breathtaking set designs. Streep, Oldman, and Banderas are splendid, but we almost don't notice because the anger that this story instills in the viewer overshadows the quality of Soderbergh and company. Anger over the fact that Soderbergh doesn't provide any solutions to the danger presented here and the fact that a lot of what goes on here is still legal.