Jeff Prosserman – Chasing Madoff
(Cohen Media Group)
Words: Eamon Stewart 

Meet Harry Markopolos, independent fraud investigator, corporate whistleblower, general all American hero, and star of Jeff Prosserman’s white collar crime doc, Chasing Madoff.  I categorize Markopolos as the star despite Bernie Madoff being the film’s namesake (and ostensibly the reason why you’re watching this movie in the first place).  But this movie isn’t all that much about Madoff.  If there were an Academy Award for Best Supporting Person Periodically Seen On File Footage During A Documentary, he’d be lucky to get a nomination.  No, this is definitely Markopolos’s show, and you’ll learn a whole lot more about him than you’d ever care to know.

The bulk of the film concerns Markopolos and his team of sidekicks at a Boston-based options investment firm and their near ten year crusade to get someone (primarily the SEC) to notice that Madoff was probably doing something illegal, and that it was possibly a giant ponzi scheme.  It’s somewhat intriguing, even implying some sort of conspiracy that involves the SEC being in cahoots with evil Bernie.  What actually follows is Markopolos and the Corporate America Justice League recanting how the SEC repeatedly ignored them, didn’t respond to filed complaints, were just plain lazy, etc.  When the film veers off the topic of bureaucratic incompetence, we learn more about Markopolos’s personal life, which at best is fairly routine.  But things do get kind of interesting when we learn about his fear of being rubbed out by Madoff cronies and his paranoid delusions of grandeur, the stockpiling of weapons to protect him and his family, and an instance when he brought a gun to a meeting with Eliot Spitzer (I guess in case Spitzer mistook him for a whore and he needed to defend his purity or something).  What makes Markopolos’s fear so curious is that at no point does he give a shred of credible evidence or explanation for why he is suddenly so terrified of being killed off.  There’s no threatening anonymous email, no bullet found in a mailbox, nothing that would justify the need for turning his basement into a small armory.  Markopolos comes off more as a man afraid of his own shadow and possibly schizophrenic, which is admittedly more attention grabbing that a lot of whatever else the movie offers.

As for the film’s style, someone might want to put a muzzle on writer-producer-director Jeff Prosserman.  The film has high production values and a lot of hyperbole to accompany it.  Strange staccato cutaways dominate most of the movie, the whistle-blowing team members play themselves in very uncomfortable dramatic re-enactment sequences, and every few minutes someone says something about “the most treacherous conspiracy of all time.”  The film lacks any sense of subtlety, and the overblown nature of things gets annoying fast.  Prosserman doesn’t have many credits under his belt, so the hope here is that it’s a learning experience, and that next time he has the better judgment not to do stupid things like tilt the camera sideways during interviews.

If I sound a little annoyed and bitter at any point during this review, it’s because I am.  I’m not bitter because there was a lot of crap going on in this movie; I’m bitter because the movie still showed there’s a great story stuffed somewhere down in the Madoff saga.  The interviews with people who had lost their savings to Madoff were predictable and totally heartbreaking anyway.  And the movie gets very engaging when the links between Madoff and European royalty and drug cartels arise.  But that is all done in fleeting.  What we get instead is a semi-dull middle aged guy in a suit, ranting and whining about the shortcomings of the government and warning us of the need to bear a lot of arms at all times.  If I’m interested in that, I’ll watch Fox News instead.

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