By Adam Ray Palmer
Two Oscar-winning actors. One Oscar-winning director. One Oscar-winning writer/producer. This surely means The Laundromat has the recipe to be a masterpiece.
Well, on day five at #Venezia76, I had the opportunity to find out what the latest movie from Netflix’s production line had to offer.
The Laundromat’s narrative is simple… well I think it is. Basically, a widow investigates an insurance fraud, chasing leads to a pair of Panama City law partners who are exploiting the world's financial system. It sounds brisk, rather like the 96-minute run time, but the editing here makes it far from easy to digest.
The story centres on Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep), whose dream holiday takes a wrong turn and leads her down a rabbit hole of dodgy dealings that can all be traced to one Panama City law firm, run by the charismatic and immodest partners Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Antonio Banderas). However, she quickly finds out that her personal quandary is only a drop in the ocean of millions of files linking an offshore tax scheme to the world’s richest and most powerful political leaders.
Within five minutes of watching the scintillating monologue from dodgy duo of Mossack and Fonseca, I immediately thought of The Big Short – this enticed me. Then, 20 minutes in with some slick editing and a few jump cuts, I thought of Adam McKay’s Vice. Both these films were brilliant at their depiction of financial and political crises. However, both the latter films have something that The Laundromat doesn’t, a premise with a real sting.
This movie does have a lot to say, and to pack it into 96 minutes is asking too much. It ends up being a messy, rapid re-telling of five secrets split into a quintet of acts, with a timid finale. Each segment is narrated by Oldman and Banderas with a great concoction of humour and sincerity, but not even this pair can save the film overall.
In fairness, there are certainly highlights sporadically placed throughout, but there’s not enough ‘oomph’. It feels like at times it could slowly build to a crescendo, much like Soderbergh’s Oceans 11, 12 and 13 movies, but it felt lacklustre come the final minutes; even with a couple of full circle reveals.
Even with the acting talent on show here in Streep, Oldman and Banderas; it just doesn’t seem to click. Meryl is certainly the leading lady, but really she’s on the periphery for the entirety. The film belongs to the unlawful law partners who get the most screen time, but also do the most with it. The playful manner in which they do quirky looks to the camera, and the smooth quips that provide a few chuckles are all good, but it’s just not quite enough.
On the whole, it just seems a little rushed, with a script that carries a few lethargic, meaningless sequences. This movie, like I said at the top, had a recipe for greatness; but in the end it just feels a little flat. The Oscar winners in front and behind the camera can be rest assured that The Laundromat will still take big figures for Netflix on viewers, but I doubt they will be adding any more golden metal to their cabinets with this one.
Cineroom’s rating: 2.5 stars
The Laundromat will be released in November 2019 – certificate 15