The story behind "Chasing Madoff" is one of greed and vanity. Two deadly sins that indeed prove fatal to director Jeff Prosserman in his feeble recreation of how Harry Markopolos tried to warn the world about Bernie Madoff’s financial flimflam only to be met with deaf ears.
The story behind "Chasing Madoff” is one of greed and vanity. Two deadly sins that indeed prove fatal to director Jeff Prosserman in his feeble recreation of how Harry Markopolos tried to warn the world about Bernie Madoff’s financial flimflam only to be met with deaf ears.
Or, more to the point, ears that did not want to hear what Markopolos was trying to tell the likes of the Wall Street Journal and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Were they bought off by Madoff and his greedy minions, or were they merely sloppy in fulfilling their duties to protect the consumer from fraud? The only thing for sure is that you won’t find out here. What you do get is 90 minutes of watching Markopolos nearly break his arm patting himself on the back for doing ... well, nothing. Even though Prosserman leads you to believe Markopolos was the hero in Madoff’s downfall, the truth is that Madoff turned himself in December 2008, when his elaborate $50 billion Ponzi scheme finally went bankrupt.
Details, details. After all, Bernie turning himself in doesn’t play nearly as well as a pseudo-film noir about a mild-mannered financial analyst taking on the Wall Street version of Tony Soprano, complete with goon squads looking to make a hit on their chief nemesis. Who knew life in Whitman could be this exciting? Well, you can believe Markopolos claims that he feared for his life, but I’m not buying it, especially after all of those shots Prosserman tosses up onscreen of Markopolos packing heat and making daily checks under his minivan searching for bombs. He’s being sold as Nicholson in “Chinatown” or Bogart in “The Maltese Falcon,” but he looks more like Barney Fife from “The Andy Griffith Show.” It’s so ridiculous that eventually “Chasing Madoff” loses all meaning. When you should be appalled at our government’s failure to protect Madoff’s duped clients, you’re instead laughing at the silly black-and-white re-enactments that look as if they were pilfered from a W.B. Mason commercial.
Lost in all the nonsense is the truly disturbing story about how the press and government watchdogs were busy looking out for their own interests instead of yours when presented with overwhelming evidence collected by Markopolos and his teams of Foxhounds that Madoff’s “can’t miss” hedge fund was a flat-out fraud.
That part of the story is fascinating, particularly when Markopolos explains how he quickly put the pieces together then waited futilely for ine years for something to finally happen. But that only encompasses the first third of the movie, leaving Prosserman with 60 more minutes to fill with repetitive nonsense and laughable amounts of hearsay about unfounded suspicions that Madoff ordered a hit on Markopolos.
Far less sensational are the talking-head moments with Markopolos’ compadres in the Foxhounds, Michael Ocrant, Frank Casey, Neil Chelo and Gaytri Kachroo. Unlike Markopolos, each of them is pretty much presented unadorned and free of Prosserman’s Errol Morris-light accoutrements. No death treats for them and no silly noir re-enactments; just straight up and narrow like the rest of the over-the-top “Chasing Madoff” should have been.
CHASING MADOFF (Unrated.) A documentary by Jeff Prosserman featuring Harry Markopolos. 1.5 stars out of 4.