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The story of Harry Markopolos and his team of investigator's ten-year struggle to expose the harrowing truth behind the infamous Madoff scandal. Throughout the decade long investigation, Markopolos pieced together a chain of white-collar predators consisting of bankers, lieutenants, and henchmen, all linked to the devastating Ponzi scheme. With risk and danger apparent, Markopolos and his loyal team relentlessly continued to pursue the frightening truth. Finding himself trapped in a web of epic deceit, the once unassuming Boston securities analyst turned vigilante investigator now feared for his life and the safety of his family, as he discovered no one would listen.
For more about Chasing Madoff and the Chasing Madoff Blu-ray release, see Chasing Madoff Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on April 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Chasing Madoff Blu-ray Review
Waters down the Madoff scandal with gumshoe nonsense.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, April 23, 2012
Robbing Peter to pay Paul, financial advisor Bernie Madoff perpetrated one of the largest financial frauds in world history, a hedge fund Ponzi scheme that took investors for an estimated $65 billion dollars. Madoff was arrested in 2008 when the whole charade finally collapsed--as Ponzi schemes inevitably do--but the scandal only increased in scope when it was revealed that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had turned a blind eye to Madoff's activities even after being given ample evidence of fraud. The scheme sent up more red flags than a Chinese embassy, and the most glaringly obvious was that Madoff's reported returns never wavered, climbing at a near-perfect forty-five degree angle even as the economy dipped up and down. Independent investigator Harry Markopolos called it "the equivalent of a Major League Baseball player batting .966 and no one suspecting a cheat."
If there's a single protagonist in the effort to expose Madoff for the sham that he was, it's Markopolos, a tall, disheveled-looking former securities industry exec who breathlessly blew his whistle for nearly a decade before authorities and the press started to pay attention. In 2010 he published a memoir, No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller, and this forms the basis for Chasing Madoff, a new documentary by Jeff Prosserman that charts the paper trail-chasing and paranoia of Markopolos' nine-year crusade. Sounds fascinating, right? Unfortunately, the film is told in an over-fluffed docu-drama style that focuses so intently on Markopolos' concerns over his own safety--ultimately unfounded concerns--that it misses the real story.
In 1999, Markopolos--then Chief Investment Officer for Rampart Investment Management--was asked by his firm to develop a financial product that could compete with a mysterious hedge fund manager who was returning consistent 1-2 percent profits months after month. French aristocrat and money manager Thierry de la Villehuchet tipped off Rampart that Bernie Madoff was running the fund, and when Markopolos got ahold of Madoff's records, it took him only five minutes to realize something was awry. Within a few hours, he had determined that Madoff's numbers had to be the product of an epic Ponzi scheme, where money is continuously swindled out of new victims and used to pay the returns of previous investors. It's like the set of an old Hollywood western--the storefronts may look convincing, but they're just propped up plywood with nothing behind them. There was nothing "real" about the investments Madoff was offering; he was basically faking trade tickets and tricking his clients all the way down the line.
With the help of co-workers Frank Casey and Neil Chelo--along with journalist Michael Ocrant--Markopolos began building an obsessively documented case against Madoff. But no one wanted to hear to his findings. When he presented a 12-page article to Forbes, they squashed the story. The Wall Street Journal buried it too. More concerning, when Markopolos presented the S.E.C. with 29 red flags, the agency sat back and twiddled their thumbs. Either Madoff had friends in high places, or he was skilled at exploiting bureaucratic oversight and incompetence. As it turns out, it was more than a little of both.
Frustratingly, Chasing Madoff gives little insight into the large-scale grifter's personality, motivations, or even his methods. He remains a kind of evil enigma, a financial boogeyman, and we're left to speculate on how and why he could knowingly ruin the lives of his thousands of investors. (A few of whom are interviewed here, mostly in tears.) To be fair, director Jeff Prosserman didn't have much to work with on the Bernie front. Madoff, currently serving a 150-year sentence, has been mostly mum about his crime, and he only appears in the film via a few archival audio recordings and television appearances. He's simply not the focus of the documentary.
Instead, Prosserman devotes most of the film to Markopolos, an increasingly kooky and possibly delusional figure who clearly wants to be the star of his own "true financial thriller." Don't get me wrong; Markopolos' tireless efforts to bring down Madoff undoubtedly qualify him for real-life hero status. The thing is, he seems a little too into himself and his story, hyping up the hypothetical danger that allegedly surrounded him at every turn. In noir-ish black and white reenactments, Prosserman casts Markopolos as some sort of Wall Street gumshoe, a number-crunching P.I. in way over his head. We see Markopolos checking under his family minivan for bombs, target shooting down at a firing range, and getting fitted for a bulletproof vest. In one of the more ridiculous scenes, we watch him cock a pump-action shotgun, readying himself in case the S.E.C. decides to raid his home in the middle of the night to steal his files. No concrete evidence is given that Markopolos was ever in real danger, but Prosserman melodramatically plays up the threat nonetheless, showing us stills from 1930s gangland slayings and playing clips from old mobster movies. At one point, he insinuates that there were gunshots at Markopolos' home, and for a second we think good lord, they killed his wife! It's a cop-out misdirect, of course; Prosserman's just showing us what could've happened.
All of this feels cheap and needlessly theatrical and amateurish. Worse, it distracts from the real questions at hand. What actually happened inside the S.E.C.? How were they able to sweep Markopolos' allegations under the rug for nine years? Why have there been so few arrests in the wake of the scandal? What's being done to keep frauds like this from happening again? We don't much insight into the issues that matters most. In trying much too hard to play up the "thriller" aspects of the story--that were never really there to begin with--Prosserman overlooks how compelling and devastating the Madoff case is on its own.
Chasing Madoff Blu-ray, Video Quality
Chasing Madoff was shot primarily on high definition digital video, with additional stock footage--much of it in standard definition--drawn from a variety of sources, from 1930s gangster films to contemporary news broadcasts. On Blu-ray, the 1080p/AVC encode looks true-to-source and often impressive. The interview sequences are very striking, visually, with the subjects dramatically lit and placed in front of ink-black backgrounds. Here, the level of clarity is at its best, with fine facial and clothing detail that's easily visible, even at a distance. The overly histrionic reenactments featuring Markopolos aren't quite as sharp, but still reveal plenty of high definition texture. The black and white sequences are stark and noir-ish and appropriately shadowy, while those shot in color have a more realistic, documentarian style, with a picture that's never especially punchy but has good saturation and natural skin tones. Obviously, not a lot can be done about the standard definition footage, which is what is is. The encode itself is stable and mostly free of compression issues, though you will notice periodic aliasing and shimmer and source noise. Nothing particularly distracting, though.
Chasing Madoff Blu-ray, Audio Quality
I don't normally expect documentaries to feature carefully engineered sound design, so I had practically written the audio portion of this review in my mind before I even popped in the disc--quiet, lots of talking heads, not much surround channel usage. I was pleasantly surprised, then, by the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track featured here, a potent mix that makes full use of its multi-channel encode. As I mentioned above, the documentary has a tendency to be extremely dramatic, and this goes for the sound effects and music too. From traffic noise and general city ambience to gun shots and impressionistic swooshes, the rear-channels come to life often and effectively with directional sounds. The sometimes overly emphatic music--by David Fluery--is punchy and anchored with plenty of bass. There are lots of talking heads, yes, but the vocal recording are cleanly recorded, well integrated into the mix, and easily understood. For those that need or want them, the disc comes with optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Chasing Madoff Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Chasing Madoff Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Much has been written, filmed, and said about Bernie Madoff's epic Ponzi scheme and how it exemplified most of the problems with our financial institutions, but Chasing Madoff doesn't add much to the conversation. Instead of asking the tough questions--and answering them--the film spends far too much time massaging the ego of whistleblower Harry Markopolos, who'd like us to think he was dodging hit men every step along the way. The documentary looks and sounds great on Blu-ray, but this disc just isn't worth a purchase. If you're still interested in seeing it, I'd probably wait for the film to inevitably show up on one of the big streaming services.
Chasing Madoff Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Chasing Madoff Blu-ray - February 27, 2012
In April, the Cohen Media Group will bring Chasing Madoff to Blu-ray. Director Jeff Prosserman's documentary tells the story of the analyst who spent years doggedly trying to expose Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Chasing Madoff is expected to street on April ...
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