The Wizard of Lies (TV Movie 2017) Poster

(2017 TV Movie)

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9/10
Not what you think (probably)
After reading a couple of negative reviews about this movie, I get the impression that the people who found it insufficient or boring completely lost the point. Levinson didn't try to pull a "Fincher" with this one. In other words, "Wizard of Lies" is not a documentary, touching on each and every aspect of this infamous case in every detail. This is more of a psychogram (i.e. character portrayal) of the members of the Madoff family. With that in mind, the movie touches wonderfully on the dynamics of an ultimately patriarchal family; the "castration" of the sons, the absolute dependence of every member of the family on the father, and on what happens when this father goes down in a big, BIG way. If you are interested in learning about the greatest financial fraud in the history of the USA (some say of all time), then visit the Wikipedia page or watch a documentary. This movie will not cover your needs. If you want to watch a beautifully directed, acted and edited psychological drama, then "The Wizard of Lies" is right up your alley.
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9/10
Surprisingly fascinating... even when you the story well!
DrWilliamWonk23 December 2017
I was somewhat surprised by this biopic, since I'm well-acquainted with the modern Ponzi scheme story and the $65 Billion ripoff committed at the private investment firm. But even for those familiar with the general story, the documentary film provides a fascinating portrait of the Madoff family and the key characters. Overall it reminds me of an epic Greek tragedy.

The principal crime committed by Bernie Madoff is clearcut. Officially, Madoff run a phenomenal hedge fund, but in reality it was just one big hoax and pyramid investment scheme. All ROIs were fictitious and existing investors were paid by the money provided by subsequent investors. Aside from defrauding rich individuals of European royalty, Madoff took advantage of the fact that he as a jewish investor had excellent contacts to other wealthy American jews, which allowed him to swindle countless of the latter of all their retirement savings. All in all, in the end it led to countless tragedies and suicides on both continents.

The financial thriller behind it has been well-told by previous accounts, particularly 'No One Would Listen' by Harry Markopolos (i.e. the financial analyst struggled to expose the fraud for many years). It's also true that the ramifications would have been much more limited if the SEC would have done their job properly.

However, what this biopic does is following Bernie Madoff and the effects of the exposure on his own family, i.e. particularly his wife Ruth and his two adult sons. It seems as his family was completely unaware of the fraud and the movie does a good job in explaining how his sons never got the information from their dominating father. Later, when it all blew up the fraud also wreaked havoc on the lives of his wife and sons.

In the end, it was all for nothing. The family members would lived longer and happier lives without massive fraud committed by the Bernard. While the portrait of him is by no means completely unsympathetic, he remains seemingly oblivious even to this day to the devastation he caused in so many lives, including to those nearest to him.

The main roles played by Robert de Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer are brilliant, but also the less-known actors playing his two sons.
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8/10
Portrait of a Sociopath
reisen5520 May 2017
Richard Dreyfuss claims first portrayal of this monster, but he made Bernard out to be somewhat approachable, as he talked through the fourth wall and joked about the art of selling a scam. He was good but too likable. DeNiro is one of our great acting treasures and his take is nothing nice at all. In fact, it is impossible to like this man. He is evil here, and while one can have some sympathy for Ruth and her sons, the entire tragedy, almost out of Shakespeare, is well done. It bounces around a bit to the past and present, but easy to follow and under the direction of Barry Levinson, moves smartly. But don't watch this if you want a positive evening - hard film indeed. Shot of whiskey portrayal of a monster.
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8/10
Whatever you do, don't steal from the very rich...
AlsExGal21 May 2017
... is the lesson I took away from the Bernie Madoff story, even before I saw this film. Think about this - Bernie Madoff is serving 150 years, and his earliest release date is 2039. Charles Manson has been getting regular parole hearings since the 1990s. Who is more dangerous? A better question is who is more dangerous to the plutocracy.

The whole story is basically done in flashback after Madoff is incarcerated and is being interviewed by a reporter. This film takes the approach of assuming that the wife and sons knew nothing until Bernie told them right before he was arrested. If there is anything the Bernie Madoff story would teach you, it is "Don't steal from the very rich". The movie emphasized all of the little people who lost everything to the Ponzi scheme, but there were enough people with enough money left over - as in hundreds of millions - that they could hire attorneys and even claw back money from people who withdrew all of their money before Bernie went bust, even though they knew nothing of the scheme. Compare that to what happened to the banksters who swindled the entire nation - which was absolutely nothing, or Enron, where the Bush administration had to practically be shamed into prosecuting the executives who swindled investors. To date about 70% of the money Bernie Madoff swindled has been recovered, with "small" investors - those that invested less than a million - being made completely whole.

Anyways, back to "The Wizard", which doesn't mention any of this. DeNiro was terrific as a guy who decided to keep his swindling secret to himself - and one smarmy associate played by Hank Azaria. Michelle Pfeiffer as Ruth Madoff almost stole the show from DeNiro as a woman who can't deal with being ostracized and hated for something she had nothing to do with. She wonders aloud how she got to be almost 70 and never learned to do anything for herself. De Niro's Madoff is shown as being able to compartmentalize how he is stealing from investors, many of whom are family and friends, encouraging those at the end to put in huge amounts of money to keep the scheme afloat in the wake of the 2008 crash, which is ultimately what did him in, and somehow sees taking what is left of his ill gotten gains and distributing it to his family and "a few loyal employees" before he turns himself in as "noblesse oblige" not just more theft, which it was.

Hints to Madoff's personality are in the little scenes. He is very stoic about being the world's biggest and most brazen thief caught to date, but he does get animated about a dirty dish and the way lobster is served at a society dinner he is hosting.

There is one particularly odd scene for Turner Classic Movie fans. At one point, while Bernie is under house arrest, Bernie and his wife decide to commit suicide in "a nice way" using Ambien and a bunch of other pharmaceuticals they have around the house. It doesn't work - they wake up the next morning. But as they lay in bed expecting to die, who pops up on the TV screen they are watching but the recently deceased Robert Osborne and TCM with him introducing Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". What an odd touch. I didn't even think anybody at HBO even knew that TCM existed.
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8/10
Prepare yourself
Br4ve-trave1or24 May 2017
Some reviews argue that it should have been a mini series but I argue the opposite, this is perfection! To add would only dilute it. Yes, your left pleading for more but that's not because it's left unsatisfactory. No, it's because during the entire film, you're absolutely riveted and captivated! People, this is Barry Levinsons film, headed by De Niro and Michelle Pheifer! Levinson is a genius at his craft as are the formers. This film is bleak and at times depressing but I promise you never for a second not so engaged in it! De Niro becomes Madoff physically even the way he walks. The cast is incredible. Finally De Niro immersed himself into a character that can portray his craft. This is one vehicle, the cast-directing-editing, that sums up to make a masterpiece! This is by far the most captivating, engaging, riveting movie I've seen this year by far! Do yourself a favor and watch this immediately!
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6/10
I wanted more
levybob26 May 2017
I wanted more, more of how Bernie Madoff became the man we meet in this film. When we meet him he is already rotten. He is mere months away from his arrest.

There is in Robert DeNiro's portrayal little or nothing to like or empathize with. Or care about. What we have is a true sociopath who is found out early in the film, which forces us to see nothing but the devastation left in his wake.

This is my way of saying there is no story arc. There are no surprises. What flashbacks there are show Madoff in his personal life but always at his worst.

Michelle Pheiffer as Madoff's wife has a small rand unconvincing role. And like her husband, I couldn't care less about her fate. As for the Madoff sons, to some degree this is more their story than anyone else's. And to the degree that I learned quite a bit about them, the film deserves credit.

But that is not enough to warrant its viewing.
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6/10
De Niro's performance is reason enough to watch.
trublu21521 May 2017
The Wizard of Lies chronicles the infamous Wall Street meltdown that was Madoff's Billion Dollar Ponzi scheme in Barry Levinson's woefully flawed but still engaging film. Starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pffeifer, The Wizard of Lies features a strong cast of seasoned actors that give their best on screen. De Niro particularly is very strong here and gives his best performance in close to a decade. However, the film suffers from a broken and jumbled script that leaves for a somewhat confusing watch.

The film begins with an interview between Madoff and the subsequent author of his unofficial biography. He begins telling the story at the end of the meltdown on the eve of his arrest and starts from there. From here on out, we're told the story in chunks and pieces, from one perspective to another and totally abandons all formality regarding coherent storytelling. Instead, Levinson creates a deeply personal character study that paints Madoff as a sociopath and a white collar criminal mastermind who would rather blame the victim than himself. While it is engrossing to see De Niro as Madoff, it is barely enough to sustain its bloated runtime.

The film is engrossing to watch. There's no denying it but as the minutes ticked by, it all started to feel redundant. It was more so just dragging the entire Madoff family through hell for the remaining hour of the film and it becomes exhausting after awhile. In a way it was very much a Greek tragedy of epic proportions that just didn't seem to end and by the time it decided it wanted to, you were already checked out 10 minutes prior. Despite this, the ending is satisfying for those wanting to see karma at its best or a tragedy at its worst, whatever way you want to look at it.

Overall, The Wizard of Lies is a missed opportunity more so than not. While it is great to see De Niro and Pfeiffer in top forms, it would have been nice to get a more coherent script from a story that literally writes itself. While anyone expecting a film in the vein of The Big Short will be let down by this, The Wizard of Lies benefits from being a deep character study that shines a (small) light of one of the most tragic mysteries of the 2008 financial crisis.
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6/10
Adding a 12th count to Madoff's crimes
Irie2122 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The 12th count is how Bernie Madoff hurt his family, which is Barry Levinson's concern here. Given that the domestic aftermath includes the suicide of one of Madoff's sons, there is no shortage of drama, and the film is well done, on the whole, with a smart script that expects the viewer to keep up with the story without spelling everything out. Nevertheless, I do want to itemize a few problems I had with the program:

1. Everyone is praising De Niro's performance, but I kept wondering when his face had turned to wood. His vocal tone changes, depending on who he is talking to, but his face is immobile. Maybe that's appropriate-- the definitive poker face would be required to bring off such a spectacular fraud. But the rest of the Madoffs are humanized, with a full range of expression and reaction. Why not Bernie, not even when he's alone. (And this isn't the first time I've thought de Niro had reduced his once-subtle skills to frozen-faced dialog delivery.)

2. Easily as fascinating as the demise of the Madoff family is the incompetence of the SEC, and the rivalry between its NYC and Boston offices. The feds were warned about Madoff by an investigator, Harry Markopolos, but they did next to nothing. Has that changed? Was there fallout? Given how crucial it is to the story-- to how Madoff got away with it-- it would have been worth at least a coda.

3. At one point De Niro, as Madoff, blames his investors, too, for what happened, and he's got a point. Anybody who invests their assets in a fund that seems too good to be true has to take some responsibility for the risk. Home Depot's Kenneth Langone (played by Ray Iannicelli), who in this script asks exactly the right questions, walked away from a deal with Madoff just two weeks before the scandal broke. When greed breeds credulity, you're playing with fire. But "The Wizard of Lies" treats the victims as if they were innocents, even going so far as to create a mosaic of their faces, each of which becomes a pixel in a portrait of Madoff. Call me an existentialist, if you will, because I am, but I say his investors each made a conscious choice: never mind due diligence with your investments, just buy into the cash cow so you can cash in.
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8/10
A Hard Hitting, Extremely Well Acted Drama,
lesleyharris3018 June 2017
The Wizard of Lies is a great television movie with a very well developed plot and a stellar cast. It's a very bleak drama that can be difficult to watch at times, there is really no light at the end of the tunnel here. The actions of Bernie Madoff were inhuman and completely inexcusable, and this film does not try to sugarcoat that in any way. I never read too much in to it and was pleased with how in depth and easy to follow this all was, you do not need to know anything about the events prior to watching this movie.

There really is no character to route for here, which, while it is understandable, is still one of the only majors issues I had. Madoff is, of course, the main character, who we can not possibly sympathise with, and even his wife Ruth and other close friends and relatives are not depicted with any noble traits. While it did not take me out of the movie, it just made me somewhat discomforted watching two hours of several characters I was not routing for.

The cast is tremendous, Robert De Niro delivers one of his greatest performances in years, portraying outstanding depth and characterisation to Madoff. While it could not possibly have been an easy role to take on, he made it look simple. Michelle Pfeiffer is also excellent as Ruth Madoff, a very layered performance, her screen presence in this part was undeniable and whenever she left, I just wanted to see more of her.

It is a discomforting drama that I enjoyed every moment of. An engaging plot and perfect casting, I would recommend The Wizard of Lies to anyone looking for a good drama.

Chronicles the life of Bernie Madoff following the announcement of his Ponzi scheme that put his clients in billions of dollars in dept.

Best Performance: Robert De Niro
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6/10
The Big Short It Is Not
admin-2272521 May 2017
An interesting attempt to weave a story line on the Madoff ponzi scheme but one that in the end is disjoint, incomplete, and largely unsatisfying. It certainly falls far short of other great financial movies – the Big Short, Margin Call, and Smartest Guys in the Room, to name a few. Worth watching but not likely a movie to savor, add closure, provide moral assurance, or make you feel anything. Too many moving pieces that lack grounding – the timeline has no center and the flashbacks and jumps forward are too disjoint, too many supporting characters are painted as morally ambiguous, and the many defrauded clients are nameless and faceless.

As for the some of the details, it's hard to get around Michelle Pfeiffer accent. It may be spot-on but the voice is just annoying. Add in Robert De Niro's unbalanced intonations and a discordant soundtrack and sound-editing and it is not a movie that will sit well with your ears.

It should have been done as a 3-4 part mini-series. They would have had a lot more time to not only relay the full time line and details of the case but also go into the many interesting sub-stories and tragedies. For example, the efforts of Harry Markopolos to unmask the fraud is addressed only by showing Bernie and Ruth watching 30 seconds of testimony on the TV in their condo. The questions of the hundreds of millions potentially transferred to London accounts for the benefit of Madoff relatives is not explored. The ineptitude of the SEC, FINRA and other agencies is also given short-shrift. Did you know that Shana Madoff, the chief compliance officer and niece of Bernie Madoff, married an Assistant Director of the Office of Compliance Investigations and Examinations at the SEC. They met in 2003 when he was performing an examination as to whether Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme. The SEC Director of Compliance Investigations and Examinations attended their wedding in 2007.

As it is, the movie dips its toe into the $64.8B (yes $64.8 billion) fraud case and provides some insights as to who in the inner circle may or may not have been culpable– all in the course largely telling a family drama. Interesting and entertaining, yes. A good film, meh. Disappointing for what it could have been, most definitely.
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4/10
Besides DeNiro, a Disappointing Bore
kingbk-222 May 2017
I was really looking forward to this. I thought this was going to be great. Robert DeNiro, HBO, Michelle Pfeffier, a very interesting story about one of the most successful conmen in our country, how could this go wrong? Unfortunately, it does from the beginning. The problem with this movie is that the writing puts it down a path that is uninteresting. We don't learn much about Madolff, his family or why he got to where he is today. Instead, it's a series of interviews Madolff has with a NY Times writer while in prison. The story is told in a mix of flash forwards and flashbacks, never developing much of a rhythm. I started getting bored with the slow dialogue and unfolding of scenes that really didn't tell me much at all. Hank Azaria plays a great villain, but why do we need to hear 10 minutes of a disgusting joke to get that point? There's just no build up or conclusion. What we get is a man who knows what he did was wrong and keeping it from his unlikable family. I had no sympathy. The Madolff scandal is a very interesting story, it's too bad it wasn't told in an interesting, thought provoking way.
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Examines Madoff the man, his motives, his family.
TxMike9 February 2018
This is an HBO movie that my wife and I watched at home on DVD from our public library.

We remember it well, roughly 9 years ago when the big financial market decline was spooking all investors, out of the smoke came the Bernie Madoff fiasco. Who would have thought that a well-respected member of the New York financial community would have been running a simple Ponzi Scheme for upwards of 16 years? For upwards of $65 Billion? That's what this movie is about, who Madoff is, what he did, and what was his motivation?

Robert De Niro is Bernie Madoff and Michelle Pfeiffer is his wife Ruth Madoff. They were in their 60s when all this went down. Madoff was a good salesmen, for years he convinced wealthy investors to put their money with his "fund" which was a phantom paper exercise. He showed them exceptional financial growth year after year but when the financial crisis hit and large investors started wanting their money it soon was all gone. Madoff didn't put up any resistance, he didn't try to divert blame, he admitted guilt when approached by authorities.

Good movie of a sad case in investment history, makes you wonder what is going on right now.
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John Kennedy-Eby's movie pick of the day on HBO
JuvenileHumor20 May 2017
"In a world full of lies, the most dangerous ones are those we tell ourselves." - Diana Henriques

On March 12, 2009, Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies and admitted to turning his wealth management business into a massive Ponzi scheme.

But to describe STUPID, would be the Security Exchange Commission. Madoff said he could have been caught in 2003, but the bumbling Inspector Clouseau's never asked the right questions.

"I was astonished" says Madoff. "They never even looked at my stock records. If investigators had checked with The Depository Trust Company, it would've been easy for them to see. If you're looking at a Ponzi scheme, it's the first thing you do."

Yes, Bernard Madoff is and will always be a dishonest thieving criminal (he's currently serving a life sentence at The FCC Butner in North Carolina). However, when the sh-- hit the fan in 2008 (largely due to the BUSH Administration), the banks and Insurance Companies were actually rewarded with a 700 billion dollar bail out (which was eventually "paid" back at virtually ZERO percent interest)

The moral of the story; When there is GREED, there's always more than just 1 BAD GUY.
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9/10
Very well done for the 2 hrs and 13 mins available!
TheTopDawgCritic22 May 2017
Stellar performances by De Niro and Pfeiffer!

Impressive collaboration of the extended events put together in a short summary of the relative details to make this film possible.

I can't believe some of the other reviews complaining about missing back-story, more character development, omitted details, blah blah blah.

How is that possible for events that occurred over such a long time frame to be squeezed in 133 min? Clearly the producers chose this route for their own reason. Although I do agree with one reviewer that this would have been better in a short mini series, the chosen direction was well executed.

Then to blame Pfeiffer's performance? She obviously portrayed the character/personality of Bernie's wife.

Some of you reviewers need to ease up on your slander of a great docu-film!
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9/10
Reliable veteran actors and director make a commendable dramatization
davideo-25 March 2018
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

After the worldwide financial crash of 2008, as that notorious year drew to a close, another massive monetary scandal hit the headlines, in the shape of Bernie Madoff (Robert De Niro), who created a Ponzi scheme that defrauded an endless stream of investors. Speaking on the record to a journalist from prison, he recounts how it all got started, when it all went wrong and the massive impact it had on his wife Ruth (Michelle Pfeiffer) and sons Andrew (Nathan Darrow) and Mark (Alessandro Nivola), who both passed away during his incarceration.

Whilst the big screens of the cinemas are clogged up with superhero franchises, and various other loud, mindless mayhem simply designed to suck cash from a loyal fan base, it's falling on online streaming services such as Netflix, or television channels like HBO to bring us weightier, more dynamic and ambitious drama, drawing in the big names along with it. Such has been the case with director Barry Levinson's portrait of Bernie Madoff, the Wall Street fat cat and living embodiment of the 'greed is good' mantra that went so grossly off course.

Whilst every other form of diversity is being celebrated and pumped for maximum effect, Hollywood seems to forget that not so long ago, ageism was the number one accusation coming its way, with dozens of older stars pushed to the side lines in favour of younger talent. And so it's to his credit with this that Levinson is able to highlight was this was such a folly, as it seems to be the age and experience of the seasoned, veteran cast that make it work so well. Being the same age as lead star De Niro, the pair seem to have formulated some fine actor/director dynamic that makes it all flow smoothly. It's interesting to think how this might have worked out if it had been another De Niro collaboration with Martin Scorsese, as Madoff appears to be on familiar territory with the type of characters they've explored before, a gruff mobster type using coarse language and taking no sh!t.

De Niro never loses his ability to carry a film, and here he perfectly fits the skin of this emotionally detached manipulator, who possesses the ability to destroy hundreds of lives with the coldness of a mass murderer. At the end, as he struggles to comprehend his comparison to serial killer Ted Bundy, does the realization of his persona seem to remotely dawn on him. ****
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One-Note Portrait of a Swindler
lavatch30 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
In "The Godfather," it is clear that the sons of Don Vito Corleone are brought into the secret life of the family crime syndicate with the purpose of sustaining the "business" of racketeering, bookmaking, prostitution, and other illegal activities. The problem in "The Wizard of Lies" is in trying to create a film about the crooked investment swindler Bernard "Bernie" Madoff who kept his sons out of the loop in his criminal shenanigans.

The film struggles to figure out how much responsibility belongs to the two sons and the brother of Madoff. In the end, nothing was resolved about the degree of the other family members' guilt or innocence from the crooked family business. The result was a film with long stretches of boring interviews and melodramatic conversations within the Madoff family. The demeaning portrayal of the women family members was problematic. With so many digressions into family matters, the filmmakers lose track of the main issue of how Bernie Madoff could have possibly executed such a fantastic money-making scam without detection from the authorities.

In one of the better lines of dialogue in the film, Bernie Madoff's success in cozening his clients was described as "matter of fact." Unfortunately, Madoff's matter-of-factness does not make for much of an exciting drama.

In the bonus interviews in the DVD version of the film, actor Robert De Niro called the story of Bernie Madoff "Shakespearean" in scope. But Shakespeare's larger-than-life tragic characters have multi-dimensional motivation to their actions, whereas "The Wizard of Lies" has only one: a business predator's skill in duping his clients and the government.

With regard to the government, the filmmakers missed a golden opportunity when they failed to explore in greater detail the lapses on the part of the regulatory agencies that permitted Madoff to complete his phony transactions over many years. This point is touched on early in the film, then dropped. The long scenes with the wife and family members dragged on endlessly, resulting in a sluggish pace that strung the audience along for more than two hours.

The only reason to see the film is De Niro's successful embodiment of Bernie Madoff. In the bonus segment, director Barry Levinson identified De Niro's ability "to pull you into the character." Indeed, this was the case, and Levinson assisted De Niro with some excellent work with close-ups, especially the emotionless, fixed gaze of Madoff's unblinking eyes. But when De Niro was not on camera, the bottom dropped out of the film with the mindless scenes with business associates and the family members.

This "true story" drama lacked the spark of such dynamic family members as Sonny, Tom, Fredo, and Michael to complement their loving but ruthless father in an epic story about greed and the failure of the American Dream.
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8/10
Makes you see things in a different light
rajrouj25 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Barry Levinson managed to do a very beautiful and clean portrayal of the world around Maddoff post 2008. I think a lot of the viewers will be asking these questions: - was the Media at fault for not making a full investigation especially on the two sons? Maybe Mark's suicide could've been averted.... - was the SEC at fault for not listening to Harry Markopolos back in 2000? - why weren't the bailed out banks that actually caused the 2008 crisis facing the same media prosecution? Why weren't the CEO of the banks put behind bars with Bernie Madoff? Yes Bernie Madoff, very well portrayed by De Niro, deserves to be put behind bars, but he simply got unlucky when all the redemptions took place. But I was left feeling at the end that he was made to be by the general media to be the sole perpetrator behind the 2008 crisis when in fact he was the victim of the bigger crime that took place.
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6/10
Skiting on thin Ice
kapelusznik1822 May 2017
The story of master stock manipulator Bernie Madoff, Robert De Niro, and how he swindled thousands of those who invested their money into his hedge fund shows just how those in government in charge of protecting people's money in the stock market were asleep on the job and let him get away with it more then how smart Bernie was in, until he got caught, pulling it all off. As for Bernie he made no attempt to excuse himself in what he did but took full responsibility for his actions. Which in fact lead to him now inmate as #61727054 ending up with a 150 year sentence behind bars and both his sons Mark & Andrew, Alessandro Nivola & Nathan Darrow, dead-Mark by suicide and Andrew from cancer- within the next ten years after he was arrested. It was in fact Bernie's long suffering wife Ruth, Michelle Pfeiffer, who suffered the most from her husband's crimes losing both her sons her high life style favorite hairdresser and friends, whom Bernie had stiffed out of their life savings, as well as husband, whom she hasn't talked to in years, and is now living quietly with her sister in Florida with only her social secrecy check , between $800.00 to $1,200.00 a month, to survive and pay her bills with.

It was the stock market crash of September 15, 2008 that brought an end to Bernie Madoff's secret Ponzi Scheme that resulted in the staggering 64.5 billion dollar loss that was invested in it to go missing with Bernie left holding the bag. With him having nothing to cover his thousands of investors, including holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and L.A Dodgers pitching star Sandy Koufax, losses Bernie's career as a stock market wizard came to a crashing end together with his two to three billion dollars in savings. We see Bernie going through a number weird hallucinations-asleep as well as awake-in him being haunted by those whom he ripped off in his Ponzi racket that destroyed their lives. In everything that Bernie was accused of doing in the movie the one that ticked him off and he really resented was being compared-by a NY Times writer- to serial murderer Ted Bundy who killed as many as 50 to 100 women saying that of all the things he did in his life he never killed anyone! Yet his actions caused over a dozen of his victims to end up killing themselves!

It's hard to work up any sympathy for Bernie since all that happened to him and his family members whom he more then anyone else ended up screwing was of his own doing. Not that Bernie also had a good side to him in giving thousands if not millions to charitable causes but that was only a fraction of the money that he stiffed out of his clueless, in not knowing what his motives were, investors. Now left alone in his eight by ten cell in a North Carolina minimum security prison Bernie is teaching fellow inmates economics as well as how to avoid smooth talking shysters and snake oil salesmen like himself from doing business with them and their savings.
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Good story telling
Gordon-1110 September 2017
This film tells the story of the biggest scandal on Wall Street, where a multi-billionaire swindles billions out of his customers in a giant Ponzi scheme.

What makes "The Wizard of Lies" interesting and captivating is that it does not get into the technical stuff of Wall Street. It focuses on the human side of the characters, namely their thoughts, their hopes and their dreams. The scene when Mr Madoff tells Mark that he is not up to scratch for the business is really heart breaking. Mark's brief and simple responses tell so much, and the viewers are left to fill in the blanks regarding the disappointment and devastation that Mark must have felt. Mrs Madoff's misfortune of being blamed for something she had no involvement in is very sad as well. The whole film makes me feel very sorry for the Madoff family. "The Wizard of Lies" has good story telling, and it has a good story to tell.
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2/10
Super Disappointed
deedee030 May 2017
I am fascinated by the Madoff story and couldn't wait to see the movie based on DeNiro and Pfeiffer being cast in the staring roles. This movie was so bad that I started painting my nails within the first 20 minutes. This is one of those films that you keep on watching HOPING that it will get better. It didn't. The casting was all wrong and the movie lacked an identity. Flashbacks/Old Lifetime movie/Documentary with a strange drug trip thrown into the mix - the script never made up it's mind about how it was presenting the information. The language, drug trip, and P conversation was completely unnecessary. It's as though the writer was trying to copy Wolf of Wall Street (which was horrible too). HBO needs to get back to quality. DeNiro will win an Emmy because he is DeNiro but he didn't fit the part at all. There were two scenes that reminded me exactly of his performance in Casino. He brought nothing new to the party. It feels like he took this part for the check.
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8/10
the ultimate in lack of ethics
lee_eisenberg31 May 2017
At the end of 2008, news broke that financier Bernard Madoff, into whose business a number of wealthy people had invested, had been running a Ponzi scheme the whole time (a common joke was to say that Bernie made off with a lot of money). This was in the wake of the worldwide economic crisis, so it was seen as particularly relevant. Barry Levinson's movie "The Wizard of Lies" focuses on this, showing Madoff's slimy tactics to rein people into his fraudulent business.

Robert DeNiro does a good job playing Madoff, as can be expected. So does Michelle Pfeiffer as his wife Ruth. I guess that the main takeaway from the whole story is that the deregulation of Wall Street enabled Madoff's shenanigans. To be certain, Madoff is the only Wall Street person to face criminal prosecution (probably because he ripped off the 1% as opposed to the 99%). No matter. He's certain to spend the rest of his life in jail. Good riddance.

I recommend the movie. The rest of the cast includes Hank Azaria (of "The Simpsons") and Lily Rabe (daughter of Jill Clayburgh and co-star of "American Horror Story").
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2/10
Do not waste your time
letshaveagoodtm19 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Great cast horrible screen play. I stayed pretty current on the Bernie Madoff disaster, this movie ignored all the facts and the real personalities. Bernie Madoff was and is a complete assh*le, he was a megalomaniac that had absolutely no regrets about destroying the financial well being of thousands of people. His children are dead now, one a suicide one died of cancer and they showed much more remorse than this ass showed. How could the makers of this movie totally ignore all the information that showed how arrogant Madoff is? I guess they were worried no one would like a movie about the real ass Madoff is.
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10/10
Outstanding!
Sherazade30 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I don't believe I have ever seen an HBO film before this one but this was a welcome introduction. It was stellar film-making actually, all involved should take a bow and be really proud. The film grips you from its opening scenes and doesn't let go of your attention even after the credits begin to role. Robert De Niro was so good in this, it was like he became Bernie Madoff, in fact the entire cast was so good it was like watching the entire thing unfold in real time. Bravo! And for what it's worth I believe the sons and the wife did not know.
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8/10
An excellent look at the biggest known Ponzi scheme in history
targe131411 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I went in very skeptical at first, although I'm a HUGE R De Niro fan. I find money movies boring and I absolutely despise the rich, so I was grimacing at the gf's choice for a TV night.

Half way through I began muttering 'this guy's a sociopath...' and I was very pleased to see in the end he is all but officially declared one and compared to Ted Bundy.

Many have complained about how this movie over emphasizes the impact on the Madoffs (I insist this is pronounced 'MAD-OFF' and not 'MADE- OFF'as in the movie, apparently just to make the 'he MADE OFF with people's money!' stupid joke). They are missing the point, of course, that the family is supposed to appear pathetic as they run around whining about their missed hair appointments and their possessions being seized.

I'd point out that no story so far has made any attempt to explain how this guy was able to keep billions of other people's money in a single CHASE personal bank account and not make a single trade and nobody was the wiser. The movie also does not go into his extensive political donations and people in power supporting him.

De Niro does an outstanding job of playing the sociopath Madoff to a tee. Strong points also to Michelle Pfeifer under a ton of old lady makeup, plays the bimbo trophy wife suddenly caught in the headlights to a tee.

The movie also does not speak to the obvious elephant in the room, that the SEC is pathetic, impotent, and powerless by DESIGN, not fault, and that criminal capitalism is largely rewarded in the US.
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6/10
Great potential but surprisingly flat
grantss23 May 2017
The story of Bernie Madoff (played by Robert De Niro), the man responsible for the largest Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding investors out of approximately $65 bn.

Heaps of potential - I was expecting something along the lines of Enron - The Smartest Guys In the Room, but dramatized. However, this doesn't come close to living up to it.

This movie could have been a great exposition on what drives people to commit crimes of such a magnitude, especially a person who was once the paragon of ethics and prudence and who was revered in his industry. Just the transition from law-abiding citizen to master criminal would have been fascinating to watch, not to mention how he put his criminal plans into operation.

But, no, nothing like that. No transition and very little on the criminal operation. The focus is almost entirely on Madoff and his family during the trial and his incarceration. While the wife and children deserve our empathy, by focusing on the private life of Bernie Madoff he is made out to be more of a victim than a villain, which is a preposterous thought.

Thus there is very little engagement, as the central character is certainly not worth supporting. This generally makes for a fairly flat experience.

There are some interesting intrigues and sub-plots and these are tellingly felt in the last few scenes, as Madoff's crimes impact his family.

Overall: watchable, but could have been so much better.
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