Mr. Social Security
United We Stand, Divided We Fall
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
I Never Left
The Big Conn is the latest docu-series on AppleTV+ and judging by the trailer, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was the next Tiger King. The story is equal parts heartbreaking and crazy, while the team in charge of this – who also produced McMillions – throw everything into this to make an aesthetically slick and bombastic documentary. Unfortunately, despite only being 4 episodes long, The Big Conn feels overlong and outstays its welcome.
The first episode in particular, perfectly exemplifies the issues that ripple through this. It takes 7 and a half minutes before we even begin the story, with nothing but hype and a massive introduction to pad out the opening. We’re also graced with a 40 second establishing shot before we get our first interview with a local in Kentucky.
These moments are small but they add up to a bloated docu-series that I can’t help but feel could have been more tightly edited to produce a much smoother 2 or 3 episode series. Just to play devil’s advocate on my own point though, all four episodes are split into different chapters that tackle a slightly different part of this case that lead Conn being brought to justice.
The general premise here revolves around a charismatic lawyer called Eric C. Conn. Living the high life in eastern Kentucky and becoming something of a celebrity in the community, two whistleblowers called Jennifer and Sarah, discover that Eric is actually defrauding the US government through the Social Security System. In fact, he actually managed to obtain an eye-watering sum of half a billion dollars.
Wanted by the FBI, chased by the authorities; The Big Conn soon spirals into a twisty-turny thriller. That’s no coincidence either, given Conn mentions numerous times that he likens himself to James Bond. James Bond with a dash of Robin Hood.
However, as we’re told so eloquently in episode 4, Robin Hood doesn’t always mean someone doing good. Eric Conn is an example of when taking from the rich to give to the poor can go very, very wrong.
What’s particularly shocking to watch here is just how many people are affected by Conn’s actions. It’s like a ripple effect; what starts as just a few people affected soon encapsulates numerous different individuals, as the truth about how deep this corruption goes grips the middle portion of chapters.
The story itself is certainly fascinating, if you can look past some of the pacing issues. That’s a problem that also gripped McMillions too, although one could argue that the questionable drip-fed nature of one episode a week only exacerbated the problems there.
With The Big Conn, the team slip into the same problem. Alongside the pacing, some of the interviews repeat information we’ve already heard. During the middle episodes, we’re graced with muted blurry re-enactments interspersed around interviews that document, in excruciating detail, exactly what Conn is up to.
Do we need to know about an elaborate story involving a judge banging his head on the side of a boat, only to submerge underwater and then heroically hop aboard, blood dribbling down his face, insisting on going on a boat ride as Conn enjoys some food? No, but the story continues.
Conn then orders two Pepsis, returns to his car and find a money pouch he earlier obtained has gone missing. Did we need that 5 minute segment? Did I need to include this big, excruciating statement in this review to emphasize the point? No and no. The trouble is, The Big Conn does it anyway to try and make the story crazier. The irony is, these moments of incredulous developments (minus the pouch disappearing) have the opposite effect.
The Big Conn is a documentary series that’s a bit too big to fill the boots of other, more prolific docu-series. It’s certainly a crazy story and full of twists and turns, but the masterful editing of the trailer gives the impressive that this is going to be a fast-paced, lively romp. It’s not.
Instead, The Big Conn feels like a watered down cocktail. There are definite hints of spiciness and moments that scintillate the taste buds, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the kick it could have had.
The Big Conn releases on AppleTV+ this Friday 6th May!
Verdict - 6.5/10