Bernard Madoff’s rise and fall story is a classic example of the power greed can have over human beings, and it’s no surprise to see it’s once again getting the cinematic treatment. Madoff was a respected financier who promised great profits to the people who handed him their savings, eventually conning his investors out of $65 billion by the time he was arrested in 2008.
He achieved this astounding feat by using a simple Ponzi scheme, a scam that consists of using the money from new investors to pay off older ones until there’s nothing left. In most cases, the scheme ends up falling apart due to a lack of new investors, a sharp decline in the market or the schemer deciding to disappear.
Madoff’s story has already inspired Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and the ABC produced miniseries Madoff starring Richard Dreyfuss as Bernie. But this marks the first time such a high-quality team is tackling the subject, and they seem to be going the dark route in The Wizard of Lies.
Barry Levinson is helming the project, a talented filmmaker with numerous hits such as Sleepers and Wag the Dog (let’s forget about his terrible horror flick The Bay) under his belt. This is his second HBO TV movie, the first being You Don’t Know Jack, starring Al Pacino as Jack Kevorkian. For The Wizard of Lies, he hired the services of Vito Corleone instead of Michael.
Robert De Niro, who has hit some career lows lately with Dirty Grandpa and The Intern, seems to shine yet again in the part of Bernie Madoff, a role he looks more than suited to play judging by the trailer. Michelle Pfeiffer (who plays Bernie’s wife) and Alessandro Nivola (playing Mark Madoff, the son who committed suicide following his father’s arrest) join De Niro as part of a powerful cast.
It’s exciting to once again see De Niro tackle such a challenging part, and The Wizard of Lies will hopefully tide us over until the release of Scorsese’s long awaited mob drama The Irishman. The only shame about the miniseries is that it won’t take into account the recent developments in Madoff’s story, and by that we mean his hilarious attempts at cornering the hot chocolate market in prison.
The trailer promises a concise yet dramatic look at the Madoff story, with a focus on his dealings with the law after his arrest. HBO seems like the right outlet for a bleak TV movie about a 21st century monster. Who knows, after tackling the subjects of Bernie Madoff and Jack Kevorkian, maybe Barry Levinson will eventually direct a film about Trump. One can only hope.
The Wizard of Lies premieres on HBO in May, and you can watch the trailer here.