The Laundromat – A Total Washout

Rating (1.5 out of 5)

Summary: A failed attempt to bring humor to the difficult topic of offshore tax shelters narrated by the two villains Jurgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Romen Fonseca (Antonio Banderas). I am sure they were going for a “Big Short” or “Vice” type humorous vibe. The movie misses and lands with a giant thud. The nail in the coffin is the super preachy portion with Meryl Streep at the end of the film. Don’t watch this Steven Soderbergh film.

Plot: Three stories are used to demonstrate how the wealthy use shell companies off-shore. Based on the Panama Papers.

Detail: The movie is three stories within the one overarching theme. The first story, about Ellen (Meryl Streep) is overly dramatic. Also I didn’t empathize with the characters. As I preach to my kids, if something is too good to be true, then it is. Business insurance is one of those areas where you should not skimp and always use a reputable provider. I wasn’t really sympathetic to the boat owners’ plight.

My favorite part of the entire film is when the tax accountant from Nevis lands in Miami, only to be arrested by the FBI. The FBI revealed to his wife in Miami, that the accountant also has a wife in Nevis. I wonder how often something like this really happens to law enforcement agents.

The next story is still a total mystery to me of how it folds into the total story. The concept for the segment was to show us how honest people used offshore companies as well as criminals. We never understood the dad’s (Nonso Anozie) business and/or motivation, so this segment failed to deliver its intended goal. All we understand is he is a philanderer who cheated his wife and daughter of the millions he promised them.

The final story is about a corrupt Chinese government official who takes bribes and funnels the bribes to buy real estate France, through offshore shell companies. His wife (Rosalind Chao) is blackmailed by the individual who set up their first transaction. She then tells the tale of a police officer in China who viscously protects the state. A Tarantinoesque scene, that felt out of place with the rest of the film. The intent was a mystery to me.

The three stories didn’t flow to form a cohesive story or lesson. I was given three incomplete stories that made an incomplete film. Fairly early on in this movie, you understand this is about the Panama Papers. In the end, you realize the 3 stories have nothing to do with the revelation about the Panama Papers. Then Meryl Streep removes her make-up to reveal herself as another character in the film and deliver an overly preachy message at the end of the film about how bad the people are that use these shells. Such a waste of talent and time. I was not a fan of this final message.