Simon Yin’s Supercapitalist is a botched attempt to update a familiar melodramatic template to reflect the economic problems that currently plague humankind on a global level. The film follows Conner (Derek Ting), an up-and-coming New York hedge fund trader who’s transferred to Hong Kong to handle a corporate liquidation that stands to net a select few, including Conner’s boss (Linus Roache, doing an awkward Gordon Gekko impression), hundreds of millions. But Conner, in the tradition of the hero of the prototypical morality tale, isn’t the amoral shark he strives to be, and so he undergoes a crisis of conscience upon encountering a myriad of conspiracies and betrayals as well as the usual racist, homophobic backslapping that predominantly characterizes the socializing of upper-class villains in bad movies.
If you’ve seen Wall Street or Glengarry Glen Ross, or Boiler Room or Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, or any film adaptation of any John Grisham novel, or really any corporate thriller at all, you’ll see all of Supercapitalist’s plot turns coming 45 minutes before Ting and Yin deign to deliver them. Conner’s transformation into a caring, nurturing boy scout is as inevitable as his blossoming relationship with Natalie (Kathy Uyen), the beautiful political science major turned corporate advisor who’s charged with delivering all of the film’s thematic talking points. And the bad guys, who aren’t explicitly revealed until 20 minutes before the end, are obvious the second they’re introduced.
Predictability might not matter if Supercapitalist had been made with cleverness or cunning. Despite its (dubious) cultural status, Wall Street wasn’t a particularly good movie either, but director Oliver Stone’s obviously unresolved feelings toward monomaniacal corporate control freaks—i.e. he abhorred them but got off on their perks and macho bluster—gave the film a charge. Stone had the entertainer’s savvy to allow viewers to vicariously enjoy the ill-gotten gains—the women, the drugs, the chic food, the ludicrously expensive art, pent houses, and accompanying feng shui—only to eventually let them off the hook with a pat, moralistic third act that few probably remember anyway.
But Supercapitalist doesn’t even deliver the initial sinful distractions of a Wall Street clone like Boiler Room; it’s a drag from the beginning. The filmmakers lack the talent for dramatizing the perks that tempt an intelligent, privileged, enterprising person to do absolutely anything to close that next deal. Here, the fast lane is conveyed in a series of priggish montages that fail to tantalize, and Conner, for the convenience of the plot, is too naïve and yielding to command any audience sympathy, much less respect. Supercapitalist is ultimately plodding and resolutely old-fashioned, a corporate thriller for folks too square to indulge the possible existence of hungers so strong they must be satisfied at any cost.
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