In the picture: Laundromat fails to shine as Zombieland sequel thrives

November 17, 2019

Zombieland: Double Tap offers more post-apocalyptic fun.

The Laundromat*

*ing: Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Jeffrey Wright, Robert Patrick, David Schwimmer, and Sharon Stone

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Tagline: Based on actual secrets.

An immensely talented cast, a well-known director, and an intriguing topic somehow come together to yield (mindboggling) poor results in The Laundromat, a docudrama about the recent Panama Papers fiasco that aims to explain the global money laundering, tax evasion scandal but ends up getting mired in an unnecessarily convoluted narrative.

The film takes the shape of multiple, incoherent storylines, all revolving around the Mossack Fonseca debacle, interspersed with tongue-in-cheek commentary by the two men central to the fraudulent activities, Jurgen Mossack (portrayed by a very miscast Gary Oldman) and Ramon Fonseca (an equally unconvincing Antonio Banderas).

The primary thread follows the tale of Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep), a bereaved widow who ends up discovering a tangled mess of deceit while seeking an insurance payout after her husband’s (James Cromwell) death. But the focus doesn’t remain on Ellen’s story for too long.

The film haphazardly switches from one subplot to another. Some detours – like the vignette about a coldblooded Chinese businesswoman who is willing to take extreme measures for financial gain – are interesting; others – an African billionaire who is having an affair with his daughter’s friend – less so. None of them, however, are very essential, and together they don’t yield anything substantial.

The Laundromat stumbles on for an unfocused one and a half hour running time till it arrives at a bizarre, preachy ending that is more eyeroll-worthy than compelling.

Steven Soderbergh’s attempts to offset the heavy themes with some lighter humorous touches rarely work well. The handling of the subject is too convoluted for viewers who know nothing about the scandal, and not in-depth enough for those who do and want to learn more.

Even the combined talents of its (usually stellar) cast aren’t enough to save the movie from turning into an aimless slog. The Laundromat comes off as The Big Short gone wrong. The execution is woefully poor and the script in dire need of polishing. The film ultimately squanders a fascinating premise and leaves you very disappointed because this project could easily have been so much better.

Zombieland: Double Tap***1/2

*ing: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson, and Thomas Middleditch

Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Ten years after our last visit to Zombieland, we return to this zany post-apocalyptic world in the much-awaited sequel Double Tap, a second helping of the action and comedy that won us over the first time around.

The film picks up a decade after the events of its predecessor, reuniting us with grumpy Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), neurotic Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), moody Wichita (Emma Stone), and rebellious Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), the makeshift family of survivors who are now expert zombie slayers. But several challenges confront our protagonists as they settle down at the White House and the strains of their situation begin to pull them in different directions. Wichita is freaked out by how serious things are getting between her and Columbus when the latter brings up the possibility of a commitment. Little Rock is upset that Tallahassee still treats her like a child and yearns the companionship of someone her own age.

The ladies take off, giving the film a chance to split the group and add some fresh blood to the mix. The standout newcomer is the ditzy Madison, a dumb blonde caricature who may not seem like the most inspired character but is played to comedic perfection by Zoey Deutch. The undead, too, have evolved, opening up the narrative for some tougher, crazier skirmishes.

The laughs arrive consistently, as the gory action and familial drama are served, once again, with a generous helping of levity and zingers.

Zombieland: Double Tap is aimed squarely at the fans of its 2009 predecessor. It retains the style, tone, and wit of the original, and while the sequel isn’t exactly teeming with novel ideas, its self-awareness and humour – as well as the talent of its stellar cast – do ensure that the movie entertains viewers from start to finish.

It is, ultimately, fun to see this band of misfits back together. Zombieland: Double Tap is a solid follow-up that does its predecessor justice, thanks to its sharp script, amusing gags, and a wonderful core cast. And while it may not exactly be the most essential cinematic release of all time, it is still very likely to make you glad that it exists anyway.

Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection

Panama Papers-based film Laundromat fails to make impact, while Zombieland sequel thrives