A tonally conflicted misfire
Between 2005 and 2017, Gilbert Chikli scammed over 100 million euros out of unsuspecting victims. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison and fined 2 million euros for his efforts. He was a master manipulator both professionally and personally, enticing gold-digging women to buy into his charisma and become his “accomplices”.
The Masked Scammer is a revealing Netflix true-crime documentary with a completely ill-fitting tone for the background behind this scam artist. With few victims actually interviewed from any of these companies, this film instead decides to use quirky, upbeat jazz music and a light, breezy tone to tell its story.
It’s a bizarre creative decision and one that makes Gilbert Chikli seem more like a modern-day Robin Hood than a genuine scam artist. For years, Chikli passed himself off as different figureheads, even going so far as to impersonate a French minister with video calls.
The film predominantly centers on various talking head interviews, bouncing between investigators like Eric Moreau, Chikli’s ex-wives, and words from Chikli himself.
One of the most damning exclusions here is hearing from those who were genuinely scammed by this man. There are flippant remarks about those who paid Chikli the elaborate amounts they did, as stupid and gullible, getting exactly what they deserve. By that same token, you could argue that if this is the tone the film is going for, The Tinder Swindler may have had a very different outcome!
While the story itself is okay, the biggest problem here is the aforementioned tone. The idea to go all quirky, light and breezy feels like the complete wrong message to send out, regardless of the fact the victims were high level authority figures.
And that’s ultimately the biggest problem with this movie. The perfunctory and blase feel toward the scams themselves, passing it off almost as “banter” at times discredits the damage that these scammers can actually do. Ultimately, The Masked Scammer is an interesting story told the complete wrong way, and certainly one that could have been so much better.
Verdict - 4.5/10