The Wizard of Lies (Blu-ray Review)

Inmate #61727054. Surely that’s a number that proves irrelevant to most of us. We live in a land where prisoners are more than abundant. However, some are more famous than others and few more so than inmate #61727054, better known as Bernard L. Madoff. Bernie Madoff lived up to his last name and ‘made off’ with a disgustingly enormous sum of $65 billion of other peoples’ money. Director Barry Levinson (Good Morning, Vietnam) brought this tale of financial deceit to HBO earlier this year in the form of the bio pic The Wizard of Lies starring Robert De Niro as Bernie Madoff and Michelle Pfeiffer as his wife, Ruth Madoff. The film now makes its way to Blu-ray and we’ve got all the details on this disc from start to finish.




There is no shortage of content in The Wizard of Lie‘s 133-minute runtime.  In an interesting twist, the film features Diana Henriques, the author of the book covering Madoff’s dirty deeds that inspired the movie.  The film opens with Henriques interviewing De Niro’s character, certainly a grand case of art imitating life.  Henriques is an author and journalist by trade of course, but she fit seamlessly into her on-screen performance.  Granted, her dialogue was minimal, but it was a good fit nonetheless.

Meanwhile, thespian stalwarts De Niro and Pfeiffer pair up in front of the camera once again to deliver an undeniable chemistry of husband and wife, father and mother, criminal and victim.  Bernie Madoff was unassailably casual in his admittance of guilt on what he had done.  Robert De Niro brilliantly portrays this, as he did the role as a whole, but it was the disturbing calm of revealing his actions that grabbed my attention.  Robin Hood he was not.  He stole from the rich…and gave to himself.  His right hand man at his investment firm, Frank DiPascali, played by Hank Azaria, adds to the embezzlement chaos as the man stokes the criminalistic fire that Madoff keeps fueling.

In hindsight, it was like a symbiosis of crimes, stealing from a number of wealthy investors under different guises of funding options, one relying on the next.   Sadly, such behaviors wouldn’t be contained to Bernie Madoff alone as these things bled over into the lives of his family.  Madoff’s sons, played by Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle) and Nathan Darrow (House of Cards) and their respective wives played by Kristen Connolly (House of Cards) and Lily Rabe (American Horror Story) very effectively reveal the aftershocks of the senior Madoff’s greed and how they dealt with the fallout.

The talents of each of the aforementioned actors shines in this film, but as every action has an equal and opposite reaction, every attribute in this film has an equally significant drawback.  The most prominent is the length of this movie.  At 2 hours and 13 minutes, it’s just too long to tell the story.  Yes, there were a series of intricately woven crimes committed by Madoff that took place from 1993 to 2008.  While I’m sure the movie didn’t cover each fraudulent ploy to obtain investments, things tend to feel rather repetitive as we go from one attempt to hustle money to another.  After a while, it just provides this ‘been there, done that’ feeling that makes two hours seem like three.  That hurt my rating for the film more than I would have liked.



The Wizard of Lies visuals provide for a noticeably pleasant high definition experience.  Colors are intentionally muted at times due to the sterile decor of corporate offices and low-lit home interiors.  Some outdoor scenes broaden the color palette in the disc’s 1080p presentation with its 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  The traditional Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC presentation is also present.  It all combines for a good-looking film, but nothing that’s going to have you screaming reference quality.  In short, it does what it’s supposed to do.



Like its sight-bearing counterpart, the audio does a proficient job but don’t expect your surround sound system to come to life.  Make no mistake as that is not a flaw, just the audio standard of a non-action film.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 format gets things done and that’s about all one can say here.  Crystal clear audio with little use of the rear channels is what to expect from the audio portion of The Wizard of Lies.



There is one lonely special feature on this disc.  Sure it’s decent and in high def, but it isn’t fulfilling.

  • Cast Interviews – Experience a collage of interviews with the cast and director Barry Levinson regarding Madoff’s crimes and De Niro’s portrayal of him (7:29).



The Wizard of Lies gives viewers a detailed overview of Bernie Madoff’s crimes amidst a series of top tier performances from the actors.  It looks good, sounds good, but runs a bit too long for the story its telling.  Chopping about 20 minutes from this movie could do it some good.  De Niro’s performance is award worthy and Pfeiffer also delivers greatness.  Would I watch it again?  Possibly, but it’ll be a bit lower on the list.

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