THE LAUNDROMAT boasts a first-rate cast, has an ace director, and still-timely (unfortunately) subject matter. But as its load of dirty laundry spins through a 95-minute cycle, it becomes obvious that they put in too much detergent and left wads of paper in several pockets.
“Thank you, Lord, thank you. Thank you for everything. I hate to ask this, but I was just wondering when exactly the meek will be inheriting the Earth?”
The normally spot-on Steven Soderbergh directed, with Scott Z. Burns—who did a fine job for Soderbergh writing Contagion and The Informant!—handling the script, based on the book “Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite”, by Pulitzer-winning journalist Jake Bernstein.
Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca ran a breathtaking operation of 214,000 shadow companies operating out of Panama, the cash-sucking tentacles reaching around the globe to snare the unwary. The film is a comedy-drama with a biographic underlay, an earnest but self-satisfied—and unsatisfying with a ‘clunk!’—attempt to make some cinema sense of the skullduggery. It wraps up with a 4th-wall-breaking plea by Meryl Streep, who plays one of the characters stiffed by the phony outfit, letting us know that the con-game goes on. Gary Oldman (affecting a porous German accent) plays Mossack and Antonio Banderas cavorts as Fonseca. Their characters narrate, on camera, as three different sets of patsies are threaded into the narrative, from the US, Africa and China.
The trouble is, the humor is not very funny, the dramatic stuff doesn’t grip, and the isn’t-this-clever conceit of the actors talking at you gets old in a hurry. A rare bomb-out from the director, and not the finest hour for either Streep or Oldman. Some of the supporting players add telling moments, but the effort from those contributions evaporate as the narrative loses grip.
Among the cast left fending: Sharon Stone, David Schwimmer, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeffrey Wright, Will Forte, Chris Parnell, James Cromwell, Robert Patrick, Melissa Rauch, Rosalind Chao, Larry Wilmore.
“In this system, our system, the slaves are unaware, both of their status and of their masters, who exist in a world apart, and where the shackles are hidden amidst reams of unreachable legalese. It is a result of massive, pervasive corruption of the legal profession. When it takes a whistle blower to sound the alarm, it is cause for even greater concern. ‘Cause it signals that democracy’s checks and balances have all failed, and that severe instability could be just just around the corner.”