A Liar, Not A Failure
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
See No Evil
The Price of Trust
Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street is a true crime Netflix documentary series that explores how Bernard Madoff designed the largest money laundering scheme in history. It’s truly mind-boggling. Joe Berlinger’s four episode miniseries looks into the background of the Ponzi scheme which deceived investors, both large and small, out of several billion dollars and resulted in Madoff’s imprisonment during the financial crisis of 2008.
During the opening episode, Madoff and his wife Ruth are shown working together during the early 1960’s trying to trade over-the-counter stocks. The early stages of the secondary source of income he ran as an investment advisor are also covered here. In an earlier case, he suffered a substantial loss and borrowed capital from his wife’s father to repay investors; he reasoned that he’d rather lie than crumble.
However, his credible stock trading company grew alongside his consulting business, which was constantly bringing in new clients owing to two accounting professionals. He transitioned from OTC trading activities to a “market maker” trading firm, acting as the mediator throughout stock trades, ultimately playing a role in the creation of the Nasdaq index.
Madoff chose to continue his consulting firm despite climbing up the ladder of the stock market, despite never investing any money and despite only using fresh investors’ funds to give returns to previous investors. Although accountants who introduced him to the company were arrested by the SEC in 1992, he was still able to swindle the money required to repay investors, who then dealt directly with him. Throughout that time, the SEC closed its study on him after he provided false investment statements to the authorities.
A precise and thorough history of Madoff’s career is provided in the docuseries. It doesn’t feel dragged either as it is a riveting story and there’s never a dull moment. Throughout the four episodes, whistleblowers, staff members, authorities, and the people whose lives were ruined by Madoff’s business trickery are all interviewed.
The storyline is written with the understanding that not every viewer will be acquainted with the financial industry. Furthermore, to make it simple for the audience to grasp each action, it also clarifies everything while sharing information. A clear and compelling narrative is built using the careful placement of the witness statements and interpretations.
To help the audience understand the seriousness of the incident, the miniseries also shares several of the victim’s narratives. Given that the people are also provided room, the spotlight is not solely on the wrongdoing and the culprits.
Interestingly, there also never-before-seen clips of Madoff himself as well as dramatic reenactments to reveal the true extent of his crimes. However, the overdramatization of actual incidents that take place in this documentary shows off one of the flaws for this piece. As a result there’s an undesirable comedic effect to these re-enactments. At times, it’s almost as if the writers are trying to create a remake of The Wolf of Wall Street.
Isa Camyar and Joseph Scotto, among others, are directed by Berlinger to give their performances more extremity. That is understandable given that Madoff was, according to the majority of findings, a larger-than-life figure who had been prone to temper tantrums. However, everyone in the series, including Madoff’s kids, government officials, and investigative journalists—use the very same cartoonish depictions of human feelings. Additionally, the slow-motion reenactment sections make it odd, to say the least.
Despite the off-putting dramatizations, the show offers an abundance of details about Madoff’s persona, the framework of his Ponzi scheme, and reasons as to why folks decided to invest in it. Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street is both entertaining and educational. This shows audiences every route the notorious financial serial killer took, which is quite captivating, and breaks down just how damaging these Ponzi schemes can be.
Verdict - 7/10