‘The Laundromat’ Film Review: Steven Soderbergh’s Panama Papers Tale Is a Messy Exposé

Venice 2019: Not even Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas and a miscast Gary Oldman can elevate this would-be “Big Short”

Steven Soderbergh has crafted a sharp and funny tale about rapacious greed and the exploitation of the working class — it’s called “High Flying Bird,” and you should check it out on Netflix if you haven’t already. Also coming to Netflix is Soderbergh’s second feature of 2019, “The Laundromat,” and it’s a well-intentioned hot mess.

Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (the “Contagion” writer adapts Jake Bernstein’s non-fiction book “Secrecy World”) attempt to follow the “Big Short” playbook of taking complicated financial concepts and breaking them down for a mainstream audience, complete with actors talking to the camera. For all their good intentions, though, “The Laundromat” flails about, with an excess of bad ideas that undercut the justifiable outrage over the events depicted.

A reminder: In 2016, a whistleblower released more than 11 million documents from the law firm Mossack Fonseca, detailing the labyrinth of shell companies and holding entities that shielded the world’s richest individuals from paying taxes on their fortunes. Late-stage capitalism being what it is, the mega-rich remain mega-rich, while Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, one of the journalists who broke the Panama Papers story, was murdered in a car bombing.

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