STUDIO: MPI Home video 
MSRP: $24.98
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes 

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Alternate Ending
  • Trailer

The Pitch

Get to know your whistleblowers with the story behind the investigation Bernie Madoff. 

It’s simple. You see, carry the two, multiply by five, and, ah, fraud.

The Humans

Harry Markopolos, Frank Casey, Neil Chelo, and Bernie Madoff (archive footage)

The Nutshell

A frustrating look at a frustrating case.

The Lowdown

One morning in 1999, a piece of paper floated onto the desk of secuirties executive Harry Markopolos. His boss asks him to determine whether the investment is secure and report back. A top financier, Markopolos took a glance at the paper and thought one thing: fraud. The numbers don’t go anywhere but up, he commented. Sound the alarms, because that never happens. Markopolos throws the documents back on the desk of his boss. He’s sure–it’s fraud.

Markopolos’ theories checked out: He had discovered the largest Ponzi scheme in history and Chasing Madoff is the story of its unraveling. Markopolos’ struggle to piece together a case against Madoff and find the people willing to bring the would-be Ponzi to justice is a difficult one to swallow. It takes the investigation 10 years of dead ends, ignored reports, and $18 billion worth of false investments before the media and the U.S. Government would take notice.

The only Regis and Kelly guest to ripoff of the American public for $18 million. That’s not true, he was never on Reg.

Chasing Madoff tracks Markopolos journey, starting on that day in 1999 and ending just after Madoff’s 150-year prison sentence begins. Director Jeff Posserman lets the experts drive, giving them adequate time to describe the investigation and attempts to express their fear and frustrations. The doc makes no bones about pointing fingers, placing their allegiances squarely behind Markopolos and company, and vilifying Madoff and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Rightfully so, the crime is among the world’s extraordinary heists.

But Chasing Madoff is far from the most graceful documentary. With Markopolos’ troubles compounding, and journalists and government agencies shrugging their collective shoulders, the documentary has little in the way of forward momentum. The audience awaits Madoff’s bubble to burst, but the details of his dealings and Markopolos’ process are withheld. Posserman breezes over these details as Markopolos finds one dead end after the other. There’s no one thing that puts his case over the edge–things just end.

The director slows things down–or, more accurately, pads–his film with interviews with actual Madoff victims and stylized dramatizations of Markopolos buying guns and sifting through statistics, and the two don’t jive. The film jumps from a scene of Markopolos describing the fear of taking on the financial goliath, a shadowy shot of him loading an assault rifle, and an interview with a Madoff investor who lost everything. Posserman’s narrative isn’t bad, but it is uneven and never congeals into a solid whole.

These pacing problems come about in the film’s first and second acts, where relevant details are ignored. In the beginning, Markopolos recognizes Madoff’s engagement in the scheme at a glance. Very little research needed, he pulls it from gut instinct and later some math. But what Madoff is doing is left up to the viewer’s own knowledge of the investigation. We don’t learn how Madoff fooled so many people with such an obvious scheme, nor are his methods adequately detailed. The stakes are laid out and the victims named, but how they were dooped remains a mystery. Ignoring the specifics of how Madoff pulled this off is alienating, pushing the uninformed viewers the doc hopes to inform out the door.

It’s that simple.

Chasing Madoff is far from perfect. The dramatizations of Markopolos taking his kids to karate and testing out his new assault rifles are made for TV. Even some of Posserman’s hopefully cinematic detours into stylized editing calls far too much attention to itself to set the appropriate mood. The film’s style never turns out as interesting as Posserman hopes, nor does it hit those moments of resonance the story needs, and unless you’re still living through Madoff’s crimes, the full weight is lost.

The Package

Chasing Madoff offers deleted scenes and an alternate ending, but neither are essential. Each deleted scene extends certain scenes another line or two, which offer a bit more insight; though, not enough to fill in the film’s many missing pieces. The alternate ending does much of the same. It’s more of the same, only longer. After sitting through the film, you’ll have learned all you can from Jeff Posserman and Harry Markopolos.

You’d thing the SEC would’ve have a better defense than “Sorry, we missed this one.”


Out of a Possible 5 Stars