The Laundromat

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13th September 2019

Good Idea, Bad Execution

On the 3rd of April 2016, the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung published an enquiry written by Bastian Obermayer. It revealed that heads of state, government officials, important politicians, and acclaimed sporters had been involved in immense tax fraud.

Director Steven Soderbergh (“Logan Lucky”, “Unsane”) and Netflix found this unbelievable story about The Panama Papers the perfect subject for their latest film. Just like the money in those offshore accounts, ‘The Laundromat” goes all over the place and sadly, that doesn’t do justice to either the story or the great cast.

If there’s one thing that Netflix is the expert in then it’s breaking down that fourth wall. The charismatic Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Antonio Banderas) welcome you on a nice and sunny beach.

Those two Panama City law partners, who are all in for the money, are ready to provide you with the best (or the worst) financial advice and law assistance. That’s exactly what Ellen Martin (Mery Streep) needs after her husband died in a tragic and freaky boat accident during their holiday near Niagara Falls.

However, she doesn’t get what she bargained for. She becomes the victim of fraud and after her lovely apartment is being snatched up by a Russian trust, she’s discovering the world of fraud, taxes and money laundry. She’s not the only victim of extortion as more families feel her financial pain.

Maybe too many families as you will get too many of their stories in a small amount of time. You are taken on a road trip around the world and through different cultures: From Panama to Seychelles and from China to Africa and from a female realtor living in L.A to a shady British businessman. The need and greed for money is what connects all those people but what happens when the money disappears?

We would say that if you’ve been following The Panama Papers scandal then you already know how this movie will end but we’re not sure ourselves what the ending of “The Laundromat” really was.

The different stories keep on coming and going and it’s not clear when and where one ends, and the next one starts. Especially at the beginning, you get the feeling that Soderbergh took too much on his plate as the story felt rushed and the characters lacked background. It makes “The Laundromat” a difficult film to follow.

More towards the middle of this movie, the stories become longer, much more detailed and there’s even room for getting to know the characters better.

Sadly, that doesn’t stay throughout the entire film but the big and unexpected plot twist is something you should stay in your seat for.

A screenplay that’s less complicated and has more in-depth character background stories would have made “The Laundromat” a much better movie.

What happens when you put an Oscar-winning actor (Oldman) and actress (Streep) together with a multiple award-winning and nominated actor (Banderas)? Well, fireworks but it certainly isn’t the case in “The Laundromat”.

Oldman already brought Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” and George Smiley in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” in a perfect way to life but this time he’s not able to do that a 100% as Jürgen Mossack.

Yes, he brings a lot of humour, wittiness and clever dialogue to the screen but that Russian accent is just too much. Oldman doesn’t get the most optimal opportunity with “The Laundromat” to show us his brilliance.

Most of his scenes are shot with Antonio Banderas (“The 33”, “Security”) by his side and those moments are funny, entertaining and delightful, just as we expected.

However, it’s again that Russian accent that doesn’t make sense at all and especially when it’s combined with Banderas’ Spanish influence.

She was outstanding as Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady” and as Joanna Kramer in “Kramer vs. Kramer” so it’s still a mystery why Streep’s performance in “The Laundromat” falls a little bit flat. Yes, she lifts the humour to a higher level but the emotions just aren’t fully there due to the yellow-ish makeup.

The idea is there and it would have made a fine film if Soderbergh and his team chose to focus less on putting all the events in one movie and more on making a coherent film in which the incredible talent can excel.

“The Laundromat” will open in U.K. cinemas on the 27th of September and from the 18th of October, you will be able to watch this film via Netflix.

A widow investigates an insurance fraud, chasing leads to a pair of Panama City law partners exploiting the world's financial system.

27th September 2019

Steven Soderbergh

Jake Bernstein, Scott Z. Burns

Running Time:
1h 36min

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