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'The Wizard Of Lies': Is HBO's Bernie Madoff Biopic Worth The Time Investment?

'The Wizard Of Lies': Is HBO's Bernie Madoff Biopic Worth The Time Investment?

The decades-long story of Bernie Madoff begins in the dark corners of a Wall Street office and ends on Time Warner Inc (NYSE: TWX)’s HBO. Barry Levinson’s “The Wizard Of Lies,” based on a book by Diana Henriques, debuted Saturday and gave a glimpse into the non-financial impact of Madoff’s infamous scam.

The Backstory

In December 2008, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Madoff for securities fraud committed through his 50-year-old investment securities firm. In the following months, he confessed to having run the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history, pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies and was sentenced to 150 years in federal prison.

By some estimates, Madoff robbed his clients of about $17 billion, but others calculate losses near $65 billion.

And those were just financial damages.

Madoff’s son committed suicide on the second anniversary of his arrest. His wife, "embarrased and ashamed," cut all contact with him. His younger brother, Peter, earned a 10-year sentence for crimes related to the scandal. And a number of other entities got mixed up in the case, from the hard-hit New York Mets to Madoff’s bankers at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), which was investigated in 2013 for involvement in the fraud and paid $2.6 billion in 2014 to settle Madoff-related cases.

“The Wizard of Lies” reflects on the diverse repercussions of the crime and the mentality of a person capable of orchestrating it.

The Critical Voice

The film earned a 65 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 67. Here are some highlights from the mixed but positive-leaning reviews.

“While the movie spends comparatively little time on the thousands of people Madoff defrauded (acknowledging them in a couple of brief but intense montages), it conveys the severity of his crimes in the devastation of his immediate family, showing how he did lasting damage to the people he loved most, and none of them ever understood why.” — Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly

“The Wizard of Lies is less convincingly about Bernie Madoff than it is about the struggle to understand Bernie Madoff: The search for why and how, by his family and his victims and the system, maybe even the man himself.” — Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly

“We may be wrong to look for scapegoats for the 2008 global financial crisis, but by normalizing Madoff's behavior, The Wizard of Lies thoughtlessly asks us to sympathize with a devil we don't want to know.” — Simon Abrams, The Guardian

“The Wizard of Lies... doesn't try to either understand or humanize Madoff, but all the same it manages to be an intimate, unsettling portrait of a borderline sociopath.” — David Sims, The Atlantic

Related Link:

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