Man On The Run (2023) Movie Review – A well-made documentary about the Malaysian 1MDB scam

A well-made documentary about the Malaysian 1MDB scam

Man on the Run is a 2023 documentary zooming in on the highly controversial Malaysian 1MDB, also known as the Malaysian Development Berhad scam. Helmed by Cassius Michael Kim, this documentary seeks to uncover the how and why of the forgery and defrauding that came to light in the year 2015. The revelation of the said scam proved to be a massive shock for the people of Malaysia and also played a part in their overthrowing a regime that had ruled for half a century. 

Man on the Run is the story of Jho Low, a man born with a silver spoon. Youngest of three brothers, Jho’s family was one of the wealthiest in China and generally maintained a low profile. He completed his schooling at Harrow School in London, one of the most prestigious schools in the world.

With a pretty decent background and deep pockets, the man made his way into Malaysia’s politics. He founded 1MDB and established it as a government monetary fund with the only goal of helping the needy population of Malaysia, or so it seemed.

The fund operated on a simple borrow-and-invest basis, a common international financial practice used by several countries across the globe. In this practice, countries borrow money from financial institutions and invest it for the betterment of their people. Najib Razak, the then-defense minister of Malaysia and a good friend of Jho Low, founded the scheme. He also served as the Chairman of 1MDB, but all the members of the institution knew that Jho Low made the final call.

Under the guise of government initiatives, they borrowed money and used it as their personal bank account. Jho Low financed lavish parties and became friends with Hollywood celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Miranda Kerr, and Elva Hsiao. Nobody knew who he was or what he did until the truth about his company and schemes made headlines.

By then, Jho Low had spent around 5 billion USD from the 1MDB fund. Jho also dirtied his hands in Hollywood and financed films like Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street via another one of his companies, Red Granite Productions. However, none of the millions Jho spent on this project were his.

Currently labeled as a fugitive, Jho Low is being chased by several top government agencies worldwide. Rumor has it that Jho is currently living his best life on his lavish yacht at the North Pole. The money he stole was divided and transferred to different accounts, making it difficult for the lawmakers to trace it. As of now, his whereabouts remain unknown, and it is assumed that he continues to live a life of luxury with the pilfered funds.

Man on The Run isn’t chronological but tells the story in a kind of jumbled-up fashion by bringing in different people who were really involved in the fraud, like Clare Newcastle. She’s a journalist and whistleblower who drilled into the 1MDB scandal. Clare shares the whole story, taking us along with her as she figures out how the scam took place.

We also hear from Xavier Andre Gusto in the documentary. He’s the man who helped Clare out by giving her all the transaction receipts and papers she needed for her breaking news. At first, Xavier was doing it for the cash, but later, he said no to the money when he understood how serious the situation was. Xavier saw that a lot of people’s lives depended on the information he was sharing, so he decided not to take any money for it.

In the documentary, we also hear what the ex-Prime Minister, Najib Razak, thinks about the whole scam. It’s kinda strange because most documentaries stick to one side of the story and don’t bother with the other, but having Najib’s say didn’t really clear things up. He just flat-out says, “I didn’t do it!” and blames it all on Jho. Najib even claims that he didn’t really know what he was signing – like, he was just scribbling his name without a clue.

The camerawork doesn’t really play a big part, as from the looks of it, most of the interviews are shot with a regular tripod, just standing still. The animations, on the other hand, are neat, and they really deserve some extra credit. Plus, the narrations will keep you hooked the whole time, making everything interesting from the beginning to the end. 

The writing in the documentary is a bit all over the place since the interviews seem a bit rehearsed and not very natural. It feels like the pieces of the story are explained separately without really connecting the dots. This makes it a bit confusing and tough to keep up with. However, despite that, Man on the Run is still a great documentary. It does a fantastic job giving you a great rundown of the 1MDB scam, especially if you’re starting from scratch and don’t know much about it. 

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  • Verdict - 8/10

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