The Laundromat (film)

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The Laundromat
The Laundromat poster.jpeg
Official promotional poster
Directed bySteven Soderbergh
Produced by
Screenplay byScott Z. Burns
Based onSecrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite
by Jake Bernstein
Music byDavid Holmes
CinematographySteven Soderbergh (as Peter Andrews)
Edited bySteven Soderbergh (as Mary Ann Bernard)
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • September 1, 2019 (2019-09-01) (Venice)[1]
  • September 27, 2019 (2019-09-27) (United States)
Running time
95 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States

The Laundromat is a 2019 American biographical comedy-drama film directed by Steven Soderbergh, with a screenplay by Scott Z. Burns. It stars Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Jeffrey Wright, David Schwimmer, Matthias Schoenaerts, James Cromwell, and Sharon Stone. It is based on the Panama papers scandal.

The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 1, 2019. It was released theatrically on September 27, 2019, before being released for digital streaming on October 18, 2019, by Netflix. The film has received mixed reviews from critics, scoring 41% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 153 reviews.[3]


The film opens with Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca introducing themselves and the concept and system of money laundering. For the rest of the film, Mossack and Fonseca act as narrators for three stories of people around the world that are affected by the company Mossack Fonseca.

Ellen Martin and her husband Joe are on a pleasure boat at Lake George, New York when it suddenly capsizes, drowning Joe. When Ellen tries to get compensation from the boating company for Joe's death, she is unable to because the reinsurance company that the boat companies' owner and his son Matthew bought their policy from, was sold to another company based out of Nevis that is actually a trust to one of Mossack's shell companies, and is under investigation by the IRS for fraud. After her attempts to contact Mossack and the Nevis-based company are unsuccessful, Ellen travels to Nevis herself to confront the manager of the trust, Malchus Boncamper, but he tricks and evades her and escapes to Miami only to be caught and arrested by IRS Agents at Miami's airport.

The second story is about Simone, the daughter of an African billionaire, Charles, who discovers that her best friend is having an affair with her father. In order to prevent Simone from telling her mother about the affair, Charles offers her shares from one of his investment companies that are supposedly worth $20 million. She accepts his offer, but when she travels to Mossack's offices in Panama City to claim ownership of the shares, they turn out to be worthless as they are actually part of a shell company under Mossack that only existed on paper.

The third story is a dramatization of part of the Wang Lijun incident, specifically the death of Neil Heywood. Neil (renamed "Maywood" in the film), an intermediary for wealthy Chinese looking to funnel money abroad, visits a Chongqing hotel to meet Gu Kailai. He demands and pressures Gu for a much higher price if he is to continue to launder money for her family through one of Mossack's shell companies. Gu retaliates by murdering Maywood through poisoning the drinks that she serves him. She discloses the incident and reports Maywood to a party official who secretly records the conversation and reports her. The story ends with Gu and her husband Bo Xilai arrested for corruption and for Maywood's murder.

The film ends with the leaks of the Panama Papers and subsequent police raids on Mossack Fonseca, the brief imprisonment of Mossack and Fonseca, and the shutdown of the firm. However, the two, as well as Meryl Streep herself acting out of character, remind viewers that there are still many such companies in existence and the practice of money laundering and corruption through fake trusts and shell companies based in tax havens is still widespread. The film ends with Streep making a clear and bold statement about the immediate need for campaign finance reforms in the US.



In July 2016, it was announced that Steven Soderbergh was set to produce a then-untitled Panama Papers project.[4] Later, in April 2018, it was announced that Soderbergh would also direct the film, now titled The Laundromat. Scott Z. Burns wrote the screenplay and production was set to commence in the fall of 2018.[5] In May 2018, it was reported that Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas were in talks to star in the film with Netflix interested in acquiring the distribution rights.[6][7] Soderbergh affirmed Netflix would likely be the film's distributor in July.[8] In October, Netflix was confirmed to be releasing the movie, with David Schwimmer and Will Forte added to the cast.[9] That same month, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Parnell, James Cromwell, Melissa Rauch, Larry Wilmore and Robert Patrick joined the cast of the film.[10][11]


Principal photography began on October 15, 2018.[12]


It had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 1, 2019.[13][1] It also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and the San Sebastián International Film Festival in September 2019.[14][15] It was released theatrically on September 27, 2019, before being released for digital streaming on October 18, 2019, by Netflix.[16]


On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval of 42% based on 141 reviews, with an average rating of 5.53/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "The Laundromat misuses its incredible cast by taking a disappointingly blunt and unfocused approach to dramatizing the real-life events that inspired it."[17] On Metacritic, the film holds a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[18]


Weeks after its limited theatrical release, but just two days before its scheduled wide streaming release, the two men at the center of the film, Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca sued Netflix on October 16, 2019, attempting to block the film's release.[19] They argued that the film defamed them. Netflix responded the next day, calling the suit "laughable" and saying the film was "constitutionally protected speech."[20] A Connecticut judge moved the case to California later that day and stopped an injunction, allowing the film to be released as planned.[21] The Panamanian government also expressed strong objections against the film's release, with vice president José Gabriel Carrizo stating that Panama will do everything in its power to "fix" the country's image worldwide. [22][23]


  1. ^ a b Gr, Sala (August 6, 2019). "Biennale Cinema 2019 | The Laundromat". La Biennale di Venezia.
  2. ^ "The Laundromat". Venice Film Festival. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  3. ^ The Laundromat (2019), retrieved December 2, 2019
  4. ^ McNary, Dave (July 7, 2016). "Panama Papers Movie in the Works From Steven Soderbergh". Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  5. ^ Perez, Rodrigo (April 12, 2018). "Steven Soderbergh Shooting 'Panama Papers' Movie Next, Title Revealed". The Playlist. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  6. ^ "Meryl Streep to Star in Panama Papers Thriller for Steven Soderbergh (Exclusive)". Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  7. ^ Jr, Mike Fleming (May 14, 2018). "Steven Soderbergh Panama Papers Pic 'The Laundromat' Has Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep & Antonio Banderas Circling". Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  8. ^ "Steven Soderbergh says he'll probably choose Netflix to distribute his next movie: 'I don't care if it never shows in a theater'". Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  9. ^ Jr, Mike Fleming (October 9, 2018). "Netflix Commits To Panama Papers Drama 'The Laundromat'; David Schwimmer Joins Soderbergh, Oldman, Streep, Banderas". Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  10. ^ Barfield, Charles (October 18, 2018). "Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeffrey Wright & More Join Steven Soderbergh's 'The Laundromat'". The Playlist. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  11. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (October 19, 2018). "Robert Patrick Boards Steven Soderbergh's Panama Papers Netflix Drama 'The Laundromat'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
  12. ^ "The Laundromat". Backstage. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  13. ^ Anderson, Ariston (July 25, 2019). "Venice Film Festival Unveils Lineup (Updating Live)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  14. ^ Lang, Brent (July 23, 2019). "Toronto Film Festival: 'Joker,' 'Ford v Ferrari,' 'Hustlers' Among Big Premieres". Variety. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  15. ^ Green, Jennifer (August 21, 2019). "San Sebastian Sidebar Adds Steven Soderbergh's 'Laundromat,' Casey Affleck's 'Light of My Life'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 23, 2019.
  16. ^ McClintock, Pamela (August 27, 2019). "Netflix Dates 'Marriage Story,' 'Laundromat' and Other Fall Award Films". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  17. ^ "The Laundromat (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  18. ^ "The Laundromat Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  19. ^ Grater, Tom; Grater, Tom (October 16, 2019). "Panama Papers Law Firm Sues Netflix Over 'The Laundromat', Seeks To Halt Release – Update". Deadline. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  20. ^ Grater, Tom; Grater, Tom (October 17, 2019). "Netflix Counters "Laughable" 'Laundromat' Lawsuit, Cites "Constitutionally Protected Speech"". Deadline. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  21. ^ Hipes, Patrick; Hipes, Patrick (October 18, 2019). "Judge Ruling In 'The Laundromat' Lawsuit Clears Path For Netflix Release". Deadline. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  22. ^
  23. ^

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