Review: Netflix’s THE LAUNDROMAT Is A True Story That Works Because Of Its Vile Villains

Published by Shah Shahid on

Steven Soderbergh is back, and this time, it’s a winner. Netflix’s The Laundromat is the retelling of a true story about offshore banking practices. Yes, it sounds boring. But so did The Big Short. And that was an Oscar-nominated film. And The Laundromat is definitely a spiritual sequel to The Big Short. 

Image via Netflix.

The Laundromat‘s true story begins with the leaking of the Panama Papers back in 2016. I’m not economically or financially blessed enough to recap that incident, so you can Wikipedia your butt off about it on your own. 

But the tl;dr of it all is this: confidential documents showing the shady and off-putting business practices of insanely high profile government officials, celebrities and countless others all over the world leak to the public. Political leaders’ careers topple. CEOs resign. It was a big kerfuffle. 

Netflix’s The Laundromat tells the true story of that incident, and what the state of the wealthy was before those leaks. How they protected the wealth they accumulated through loopholes in the tax system. The rich setup companies outside of the United States, taking advantage of their loose tax laws, allowing them to circumvent the system. 

Soderbergh’s movie is not about any of the people affected by these dealings, but the people responsible for it. Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca are the two men who mediated all the dealings for thousands of wealthy and powerful people all over the world. The Laundromat somewhat recounts how these insanely shady business practises affected the everyday public. But the story is mostly about these two. 

Netflix’s The Laundromat has its villains as the heroes.

The Laundromat’s focus is on the true story of Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Fonseca (Antonio Banderas). And despite the massive all-star cast of the movie, it’s their story. And the movie makes that clear from the first scene. 

The entire film’s narration is from the perspective of Mossack and Fonseca. The Laundromat’s heroes are these two vile corporate giants who, for all intents and purposes, got away with it. This is not a spoiler. The Laundromat is a true story, so the ending is pretty public knowledge. 

The movie’s heroes. It’s villains. | Image via Netflix.

The movie is less about what happens, but how it happens. Like any Soderbergh movie, the quirky director can make a movie about the most boring subject matter, engaging. The flip side of the story does see how the actions of those two affect the normal lives of the middle class. And embodying that middle class is none other than Meryl Streep herself. 

Streep plays Ellen, a widow whose life has turned upside down with the death of her husband. When trying to find out who’s responsible for the lack of insurance involved in his accident, she discovers the trickle-down effect of the business practices of Mossack Fonseca. She embarks on a journey to get to the root of how she can hold someone accountable, and through her story, the true story of The Laundromat becomes clear. 

Not her movie! Surprisingly. | Image via Netflix.

Streep is pitch-perfect here. But there’s no doubt of that. Despite the all-star cast of The Laundromat, it’s a Streep-Oldman-Banderas trifecta. But that’s another thing about this movie. There are some amazing guest appearances in this movie. But they all feel wasted in their brief time on-screen, and their little to zero significance in the story. 

Oldman and Banderas steal the show from Streep in The Laundromat.

Sharon Stone shows up for one scene as a fancy Las Vegas realtor who’s the first obstacle in Ellen’s journey. It was fun to see David Schwimmer back on the screen but in a brief role of someone whose business is in ruins by the lack of responsibility of an insurance company set up by the two villains. Jeffrey Wright has some interesting scenes as a cog in the corrupt machine that allows businesses to get away with this. Will Forte and Chris Parnell have a hilarious cameo. As does Larry Wilmore, formerly of The Daily Show

Soderbergh executes The Laundromat’s true story in the best way possible. The technical exposition by Oldman and Banderas is top-notch. It’s information delivered with apathy and reckless disregard by the two greedy characters. And it’s fun to watch. There are many long takes and hilarious asides, as is normal for a Soderbergh film. 

Netflix’s The Laundromat took a true story, that is still happening today by the way, and made it relatable and interesting. The insanely boring subject matter, I would argue even more than that of The Big Short, becomes so easily digestible with the writing. The Laundromat’s true story is unique, from the perspective of the bad guys, which drives home its point that much more. While it’s not as engaging or in-depth as The Big Short, it’s definitely a light breezy watch.

The Laundromat is now streaming on Netflix. 

What did you think of The Laundromat? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @theshahshahid. 


Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad

1 Comment

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