Wall Street movies are certainly big now, with The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short being among the most well-regarded flicks. That trend is now continuing on to the small screen with the four part TV movie, Madoff.
Following Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme that bilked $65 billion from clients, Madoff has a relevant and important story to tell. It may not be done in the most interesting way, but the engaging yarn proves to be satisfying enough.
Shinning as the enigmatic and brash Madoff is Richard Dreyfuss, delivering a captivating performance from the start. Dreyfuss captures the despicable behaviors and arrogance of the character, but adds more depth than that. Audiences get a sense of Madoff’s spiraling mental state, as the ever-expanding scam gets over his own head. Dreyfuss creates a hurried panic to the character, developing a genuine vulnerability.
For a TV movie, Madoff offers a surprising bevy of talented supporting players. Blythe Danner is the standout as Bernie’s wife. Danner explores the character’s complicated relationship with her husband, while also having a fair share of impactful moments. Tom Lipinski, Michael Rispoli and Erin Cummings round out the cast, delivering solid efforts.
Madoff is at its best when exploring its titular protagonist’s complicated work. The yarn unravels in an intriguing and unpredictable manner, leaving me wanting more going from part to part. Much of it is almost too ridiculous to believe, but it’s thankfully an accurate portrait of the events that took place. Adding to the Wall Street business is Bernie’s complicated family dynamic, with him spending much of his time keeping his family at bay from his actions.
While the family aspect could have added a nice pathos center, it ultimately does not fully work. Much of this is due to the film’s surprisingly lackluster final quarter, which feels discombobulated despite having the least going on story-wise. Story moments that could have had a real punch end up feeling rushed.
Madoff struggles to remove the stench of its TV movie title. Director Raymond De Felitta has a few successful features under his belt (last year’s Rob the Mob being most notable), yet succumbs to the cliches of the TV platform. The execution as a whole feels workmanlike, with the additional stylistic touches coming off as trite.
As a whole, the special proves to be a worthwhile one, delivering a polished, yet unspectacular version of the Bernie Madoff story. The four-part series premieres tonight on ABC, with the final two parts on tomorrow, February 3.