The Wizard of Lies
Crime, Drama, Biography, History
IMDB rating:
Barry Levinson
Robert De Niro as Bernie Madoff
Mark La Mura as Ike Sorkin (as Mark LaMura)
David Lipman as Martin Flumenbaum
Clem Cheung as Judge Denny Chin
Amanda Mason Warren as SEC Investigator
Sophie von Haselberg as Nicole De Bello
Portland Helmich as Reporter
Nathan Darrow as Andrew Madoff
Geoffrey Cantor as Ostrow
Michael Kostroff as Peter Madoff
Kathrine Narducci as Eleanor Squillari
Michelle Pfeiffer as Ruth Madoff
Kelly AuCoin as Agent Ted Cacioppi
Hank Azaria as Frank Dipascali
Lily Rabe as Catherine Hooper
Alessandro Nivola as Mark Madoff
Kristen Connolly as Stephanie Madoff
Steve Coulter as Martin London
Michael A. Goorjian as Dan Horwitz
Storyline: A chronicle of 's Ponzi scheme, which defrauded his clients of billions of dollars.
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Good story telling
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.
Great acting from de niro....
I am not going to talk about the movie itself. I found it a little complicated specially if you don't know the whole background story of bernie madoff. But as a de niro fan, his acting made me emotional to the point that i shed some tears. (i am 40 years old) It was very refreshing and relieving to see him back at top of his game. The man was amazing and i know now for certain that he will also shine in The Irishman. Mr deniro if you read this, i love you man and the golden globes for best actor is definitely yours.
The Big Short It Is Not
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 time line 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.
Pointless long movie with good acting
Bernie Madoff perpetrated one of the great financial frauds over a period of nearly 20 years, with unethical practices dating back to possibly the 1970s that laid the foundation for his grand Ponzi scheme. However instead of looking at the rise of this, we are instead treated to watching a group of overly rich people mostly get embarrassed and stressed out being caught out.

While it is great to watch Robert De Niro's fantastic understated and nuisances performance, what you really have is a long 2 hour movie that drags on and on.

Should we feel sad about how rich people suffered because of their involvement in such an enterprise? Should we feel too concerned about the Madoff family who benefited by working for Bernie instead of doing their own thing? Of course not.

Give this one a miss, it won't really inform or entertain.
Adding a 12th count to Madoff's federal crimes
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 the Madoff 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 scheme. 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.

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. They were warned about him 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: believe his high-flying claims without due diligence.
Skiting on thin Ice
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.
the ultimate in lack of ethics
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").
Poverty of Spirit
You always have the poor it has been said but it escapes many that this saying doesn't include the poor in spirit as well. We are introduced to a man who lied, cheated & stole proving the point that it works. That's not the problem. Its when you get caught that it all doesn't make sense. Why? Because the light of reality is shined on it. The Truth visits with it and it cannot escape the test of righteousness. Haven't you seen what all rich people do? Its all the same thing! Five star meals, exotic and elegant homes, cars & chauffeurs, parties galore, the best seats, spots and places, every jewel, diamond and ruby with gold trimmings, every whim & want satisfied and of course the biggest prize of all is saved for the end i.e. the common denominator they all share. A false life and identity. They do not know why they are here, what is required or where they are going. The conscience is dulled and everyone looks and acts alike too. If one applies reason, logic or even self-explanation as to why one should have extremely more than what they need, you also have to examine why we die and live for such a short period of time. The Pharoahs tried to take it with them with explanations of an after-life that required riches from here to live there? Today, the story is trust accounts, leaving it to my children and their children and because I can and its there for the taking. Tell me how one million or one billion dollars gives life? Virtue? Character? Inner value? Bernie Madoff represents the grouping and he was surrounded by his like kind that's why it all works. The blind leading the blind but where? Most excellent warning to anyone who is hoarding, coming into their portion through willfulness, underhandedness or ill-gotten gain avenues. The only good explanation for excess is to be rid of it in such a way that someone receives a helping hand until they too can take a stand. One more thing...Every drug dealer, or anyone who breaks the laws of society and conscience does the same old thing. They want to be perceived as normal thus they live the life money can buy but their insides remain the same. Watch this movie and be glad for what you have or can have correctly and for the right reasons. The hell with everything else (literally)
So sad
I think the tragedy here is that we have 3 men (the sons and the brother) who sold their self respect and self esteem to BM in exchange for good money.

I'd like to see a more or less chronological treatment of this mess but for some reason the artistes don't seem to think that would be an interesting way to tell the story. I think it would be, with plenty of room for whatever psychological aspects are in need of examination. I want to know how all this got started. I want to see the day BM first decided he needed to run a ponzi scheme.

Additionally, maybe the story would be better with no big name star in the lead. I think this is a story that is better told with "no baggage" or pre conceived notions that a name star brings with it.

This version was heavy on the sociology but light on where it all fit in and I don't believe it served the viewer well. Also, we've been so saturated with Robert DeNiro the last 15 years . . . uncle!
An excellent look at the biggest known Ponzi scheme in history
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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