The Laundromat [Review]

The Laundromat marks Steven Soderbergh’s second film released by Netflix in this year alone. This film wasn’t shot on an iPhone like his last two films, Unsane, and High Flying Bird. While visually and stylistically, Laundromat feels like classic Soderbergh, it still is too messy to be continuously enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong, I very much was glad that I got to see The Laundromat on the big screen, and that others will be able to as well. I just personally believed that High Flying Bird should have had the same opportunity. 

This definitely isn’t the first time that Soderbergh has put out two films in one year, and it probably won’t be the last. Considering now that he decides to shoot films on iPhones (and who knows what he’s going to do with the newest model), he’s able to quick and always moving.

Speaking of quick, in his latest film, you get a fairly fast-paced with no fat type of film that runs a shy 96 minutes long. A film he shot and edited himself, with that clean crisp digital photography. These are the things that are given with his films, nobody can deny or take that away from him. The storyline is where I believe the film begins to falter.

The Laundromat is the film about the Panama Papers. Which for layman terms, the 11.5 million documents that dated from 1970 to roughly 2015 between financial and attorney-client information from a law firm in Panama, Mossack Fonseca. They helped people who were very wealthy in hiding their money in shell companies. As the film puts it, tax avoidance is different than tax evasion.

The downside to the film is that there’s, unfortunately, no way to watch the film without having some sort of comparison with The Big Short. And while The Big Short is way more erratic (especially in its editing), the way that Scott Z. Burns’ script plays out, a lot of the time we have Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Fonseca (Antonio Banderas) telling the audience all the needed information and tries to break it down for any viewers like myself who might be unaware of what had happened. And while those moments are entertaining in their own way, they are very different from the tone of the rest of the film.

Ellen Martin (Maryl Streep) loses her husband, Joe (James Cromwell) in a boating accident and when she tries to get the settlement from the boat, she and others, discover the rabbit hole filled with off-shore accounts. But it’s not only her storyline we follow, but we also briefly follow a few others to see the full scale of what Mossack Fonseca has their greedy hands on. The film slugs along whenever we change storylines, and it comes to a hard break when we learn one of the “trade secrets.”

As a fan of Soderbergh and most fans of cinema should be, it’s an interesting watch. It’s not necessarily the best he’s made but it’s not entirely awful. While deep in one of the storylines, it’s a fascinating look at how gross and corrupt we humans can be when money and financials come into play. The film is messy at moments, and that can occasionally be forgiven.

Your opinion on the ending may differ, I enjoyed the final shot.