Director Jeff Prosserman likely learned his documentary filmmaking skills by watching “Unsolved Mysteries.”
After all, Prosserman’s “Chasing Madoff” is chock-full of shadowy reenactments similar to those that made the old television series such a guilty pleasure. Rather than offering any new insight into Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, the director not only regurgitates the same old story but also fails to trust the attraction of said story, resorting to cheesy melodrama.
“Chasing Madoff” is the story of Harry Markopolos and his team of investigator’s 10-year struggle to expose the truth behind the infamous Madoff scandal. Over the course of the documentary, the former Boston securities analyst details how he pieced together a chain of white-collar predators consisting of international bankers, lieutenants and henchmen, all linked to the Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
According to press documents, Markopolos found himself trapped in a web of epic deceit, fearing for his life and the safety of his family and becoming increasingly paranoid in the process. This is definitely apparent in “Chasing Madoff,” albeit in a rather melodramatic way. What is not apparent, though, is anything about Madoff – the man whose secrets will likely draw most viewers to the theater.
That is by no means meant to downplay Markopolos’s experience or the entertainment value it could have held if relayed in a way that was not quite as simulated as it is here. After all, Markopolos had real reason to worry and his tale (minus the artificial antics) is harrowing, to say the least. And the trail of predators is certainly sickening.
However, Prosserman seems to have forgotten that Madoff’s actions affected many more people than just Markopolos. The human interest value of “Chasing Madoff” would have been far stronger if Prosserman had focused on Madoff’s impact on the average joe’s livelihood. As is, the film is emotionally empty and is little more than a stagy spectacle.
“Chasing Madoff” (NR – 91 minutes) opens Friday, Sept. 16 exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. Visit FirstLook.com for specific showtimes.
Listen to Joseph J. Airdo’s “Movie Maverick” radio segment, every Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. during “The Daily Blender with Jeffry O’Brien” on KBSZ – NBC 1260 AM and 96.1 FM.