Netflix comes to it again with their true-crime documentaries. In this opportunity, we exchange guns and knives for money and numbers as we explore the world of Wall Street. Wall Street has been the setting for many great films, from the very well-titled “Wall Street” with Michael Douglas to Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece, “The Wolf of Wall Street” with Leonardo DiCaprio. This time, the story is real, and Netflix presents its protagonist in detail. It seems like it is the perfect setting for stories drenched in corruption and greed.
Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street is a true crime Netflix documentary that explores the comings and goings of Bernie Madoff, one of the most essential pillars of the Wall Street industry and the founder of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. An investment firm that manages to get out unscathed after some of the worst financial disasters in recent memory. These results, of course, made Madoff into a celebrity of sorts, as he managed to do things many tried and failed miserably to do.
However, Bernie Madoff was no hero at all. In a classic villain reveal, he is shown to be a traditional Wall Street stereotype, having destroyed many businesses and lives during his career. By his own admission, Madoff was a monster, and it is this aspect the one that the documentary series explores in detail. However, because the documentary lacks the sordid details that often come with murders and many visceral crimes, the documentary might not grab as much audience as those depicting serial killers, even though Madoff’s crimes are arguably equal.
Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street uses the same techniques as every other Netflix documentary under the sun. It seems the streaming service has found a way to manufacture these documentaries one after the other, and there is very little that makes them different other than the subject they tackle. From this point of view, this is indeed alarming. These documentaries are done more in the vein of content than as actual films trying to be a piece of filmmaking that goes beyond doing some interviews and spitting out some facts.
Some might say that it is sad, and in some ways, it is. It seems that with these Netflix documentaries, the director’s voice is buried way behind the subject. Even when it comes to the dramatization of some real-life events, using actors, costumes, and props, the results are always the same. These scenes use this slow camera effect that is enhanced by this dream-like quality, as something that happened in a distant memory. Netflix releases dozens and dozens of these documentaries every year, each of them the same. It is pretty strange.
Here, the documentary uses archive footage, mostly from TV broadcasts, newspaper clips, and even short clips from interviews with Madoff himself. Let’s remember that at this point, Madoff has been dead for more than a year, so there is plenty of material on him that can be used to support the case of the documentary. The subject is fascinating; there is no other way around it. So, at least for how boring the execution is, the documentary has an interesting story to support and basically justify its existence.
As for the story, it is fascinating to see how this man was able to commit fraud for years and not get caught, basically. Especially when considering that he was running a Ponzi scheme but doing it at the highest level of the financial world. This doesn’t only speak badly about him as a person but also talks a lot about Wall Street as an industry that basically allows for these things to happen. When the consequences are countless lives ruined, it seems like the entire industry is designed to screw people over.
The exploration of Madoff as a person is the most vital point of the documentary. He is treated as a mythical figure. He manages to cross the lines between someone that could be admired and someone who could be despised in equal measure. Seeing the people who worked with him for decades telling tall tales about how he managed to inspire them every day crashes with the realities of the things he did to maintain that inspiration floating around.
Ultimately, Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street comes across as just another true-crime Netflix documentary. However, this time the crimes don’t have anything to do with murdering people left and right; the consequences of the acts depicted in this miniseries are equally terrifying. Madoff comes across as a perfect villain, and it is definitely interesting to see him explored in the same way as these documentaries do with serial killers. These people went out of their way not to follow the rules of society. Even if their motivations are something as simple as greed, we need to remember that these people exist; they are not a fantasy.