When her husband (James Cromwell) dies in a boat crash, Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) goes in search of the compensation she’s owned and discovers a global labyrinth of exotically-based companies on islands with more shells than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
The Laundromat seeks to do for the Panama Papers what The Big Short did for the financial crisis, and suffers some of the same problems, opting for soap boxery over story and relying heavily on fourth wall-free explainers, this time courtesy of Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca (Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas), whose shellfish deeds were uncovered by the leak.
But where The Big Short at least did a very good job of explaining the highly complex financial processes which led to the crash, The Laundromat basically tells us there are shell companies in offshore havens which pay no tax – something any moderately well informed person knows already.
It jumps about between various self-contained tales of super-rich investors which vary in quality but are all equally inconclusive. These are roughly strung together by the pieces to camera and Ellen’s exasperation, with a couple of highly questionable creative decisions thrown in along the way. The end product feels like an extended version of the Margaritaville episode of South Park with an all star cast and not as many jokes.