Capturing the 2008 financial crisis on film has been a tough feat, despite the success of 2011's Margin Call
and the upcoming Arbitrage
, which is loosely based on a Bernie Madoff-type of character. Which is why $upercapitalist
works in a niche that has been completely underrepresented in film, yet it still struggles from the basic plot points that double for a complex economic negotiation.
Introduced in a monologue by hedge fund manager Mark (Linus Roache, Batman Begins
) the idea of a "supercapitalist" is someone that can enter a foreign market and twist it to their will. Which is exactly what he plans to do with Conner (Derek Ting), an up-and-coming analyst that correctly predicts the U.S. dropping interest rates and how a languishing Chinese shipping-cum-construction company will be ripe for the picking. Conner's gets dispatched by Mark to Hong Kong to personally oversee the number crunching and gets acquainted with Quentin (Darren E. Scott) while engaging with the company's CEO Victor Chang (Kenneth Tsang), brother Donald (Richard Ng) and forgotten son Richard (Eugene Kang). As he gets accustomed to the "supercapitalist" culture, Conner clashes with the personal beliefs behind the Chang family and their company along with the ulterior motives Michael and Quentin are hiding behind their high society lifestyles.
For a first-time directorial effort from Simon Yin, along with script from Ting, $upercapitalist
is the high-stakes investment thriller we should be getting more of in a post-Madoff
world. Still, it gets hard to move past some of the more awkward dialog and exchanges, as English is the preferred language despite brief dips into Chinese down to even the local homeless population being bi-lingual while being abused by the rich and powerful. Likewise, Hong Kong is explored in montage and only around the same bustling streets when the crew aren't inside the same private club repeatedly or going through the same bustling public square. But these are all easy to gloss over at the rate Yin and Ting bring us into the public trading culture.
At the heart, $upercapitalist acts like the sequel that Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps desperately tried to be, but not even the ghost of Frank Langella on the 6 train could help it. By taking the standard "smart but troubled" trope with Conner, we're given a predictable plot but one that has the potential to grow past our traditional responses to generic dramas. And to an extent, $upercapitalist accomplishes that. Quentin's questionable methods (he pressures Conner into writing an anonymous letter) seem reasonable at first due to how normal people view these companies that extend further into how Conner himself sees the idea of corporate worth. Transitioning that into an appreciation of basic person interaction over corporate mentality is an interesting quirk in the age of where making money is far superior to keeping the "Mom and Pop" shops open.
It'd be hard to keep an audience enthralled if the protagonist doesn't go through a personal change of heart, even if the idea at hand is so simple that companies really would enact it (hint: it's like the Facebook social game, FarmVille
). When this revelation comes out, it feels stunted--after all, by this point there's only a half hour left in the film. Even with that sort of fault, $upercapitalist
is the closest we'll get to a legit trader thriller that doesn't require the reminder that "greed is good" when any family is always stronger.