Saturday 22 April 2023

Movie Review: The Wizard Of Lies (2017)

Genre: Biographical Crime Drama
Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Alessandro Nivola, Hank Azaria
Running Time: 132 minutes

Synopsis: The story of infamous financial fraudster Bernie Madoff (Robert De Niro) is revealed through flashbacks from his prison interview with journalist Diana B. Henriques (as herself). During the 2008 economic crisis, Madoff's private investment fund collapses. He admits to masterminding a decades-long $65 billion Ponzi scheme and is sentenced to 150 years. Investors' lives are ruined, while his sons (Alessandro Nivola and Nathan Darrow) and wife Ruth (Michelle Pfeiffer), who all claim no knowledge of the fraud, deal with the fallout.

What Works Well: Director Barry Levinson crafts a textured depiction of fake grandeur within a greed-dominated world where one charismatic swindler fooled many people for a long time. The stylistic mosaic mixes documentary-style interviews with fly-on-the-wall family revelations and public episodes of the FBI descending and dismantling Madoff's house of cards, all propelled by a captivating Robert De Niro performance.

What Does Not Work As Well: Despite the long running time, Madoff's internal drivers remain frustratingly elusive. While Levinson does well to portray the fraud victims, the balance in the final third tilts towards Madoff's sons, who as (purportedly) clueless scions are ultimately uninteresting. In contrast, more compelling characters including Madoff's right-hand associate Frank (Hank Azaria) are unceremoniously abandoned.

Conclusion: A potent portrait of carnage resulting from unchecked avarice colliding with unbridled deception.

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