With Steven Soderbergh directing and powerhouses like Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, and Antonio Banderas headlining, I genuinely believed that The Laundromat would be a diamond in the rough in the land of Netflix originals. Inspired by the 2017 book Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers by Jake Bernstein, The Laundromat supposedly follows the story of a recent widow, Ellen (Streep) whose husband died in a freak accident. When she’s unable to sue anyone because their insurers are hidden behind a shell company, she takes matters into her own hands.
That’s how it starts, at least. Somewhere in the middle, we are thrown into the fictional world of the Panama Papers’ victims, told in vignettes and narrated by Ramon Fonseca (Banderas) and Jurgen Mossack (Oldman). However, none of the characters are on screen long enough for us to care about them or their losses. We neither form an attachment to Streep’s character or Banderas and Oldman’s. It was as if they were just tossed around in there with a bunch of other otherwise spectacular actors without any real purpose.
There was a lot of talk about empty shells in this film about shell companies, but one couldn’t help but think that the film itself is a shell of something that would have worked had it not been for the clumsy scriptwriting. The ending, which was presented as something that the audience is supposed to think is clever, ends up looking like a public service announcement more than anything.
The film is beautifully shot, and the stylistic choices are commendable, and that might just distract you from all the nothing it brings to the table.