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
CinematographyPeter Andrews
Edited byMary 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 book Secrecy World, about the Panama Papers scandal, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jake Bernstein.

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 by Netflix on October 18, 2019. The film has received mixed reviews from critics.


The film opens with Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca introducing themselves, along with the concept and practices of money laundering. The pair continue to act as narrators for three stories of people around the world who are adversely effected by their company's machinations, Mossack Fonseca. While the story has been somewhat fictionalized, the names of the law firm at the centre of the scandal,[3] along with those of its founders, were not.[4]

Characters Ellen Martin and her husband, Joe, are on a pleasure boat, the Ethan Allen at Lake George, New York when it capsizes, drowning Joe. When Ellen tries to get compensation from the boating company for Joe's death, she cannot because the reinsurance company that the boat company's owner and son, Matthew, bought their policy from was sold to another company based out of Nevis. The Nevis-based company is actually a trust of one of Mossack's shell corporations, which is under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for fraud. When her attempts to contact Mossack and the Nevis-based company are unsuccessful, Ellen travels there to confront Malchus Boncamper, the manager of the trust. Malchus tricks Ellen and escapes to Miami, where he is arrested by IRS-CI Special Agents at a Miami airport.

The second story is about Simone, who is the daughter of Charles, an African billionaire. When Simone discovers her best friend is having an affair with Charles, he offers her shares (supposedly worth $20 million) in one of his investment companies to keep her silence. She accepts his offer, but when she travels to Mossack's offices in Panama City to claim the shares, they turn out to be worthless because they are actually part of a shell company under Mossack that only exists on paper.

The third story is a dramatization of the death of Neil Heywood, part of the Wang Lijun incident. Heywood (renamed "Maywood" in the film), is an intermediary for wealthy Chinese looking to funnel money abroad. He visits a Chongqing hotel to meet Gu Kailai. Maywood demands and pressures Gu for a much higher price if she wants him to continue laundering money for her family through a shell company Mossack owns. Gu responds by poisoning Maywood's drinks. Gu discloses the incident and reports Maywood to Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun who secretly records the conversation; he then reports her to the Chinese government. The story ends with the arrest of Gu and her husband Bo Xilai for Maywood's murder and for corruption.

The film ends with the leaking of the Panama Papers and subsequent police raids on Mossack Fonseca, the brief imprisonment of Mossack and Fonseca, and the shutdown of the firm. Mossack and Fonseca, along with Meryl Streep as herself, remind viewers that many such companies still exist, and the practice of money laundering and corruption using fake trusts and shell companies based in tax havens is still widespread. The film ends with Streep making a statement about the immediate need for campaign finance reforms in the US before adopting the Statue of Liberty's pose.



In July 2016, it was announced that Steven Soderbergh would produce a then-untitled Panama Papers project.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7][8] Soderbergh affirmed Netflix would likely be the film's distributor in July.[9] In October, Netflix was confirmed to be releasing the movie, with David Schwimmer and Will Forte added to the cast.[10] That same month, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Parnell, James Cromwell, Melissa Rauch, Larry Wilmore and Robert Patrick joined the cast.[11][12]


Principal photography began on October 15, 2018.[13]


It had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 1, 2019.[14][1] It also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and the San Sebastián International Film Festival in September 2019.[15][16] It was released theatrically on September 27, 2019, before being released for digital streaming on October 18, 2019, by Netflix.[17]


On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval of 41% based on 167 reviews, with an average rating of 5.50/10. The site's critical consensus says, "The Laundromat misuses its incredible cast by taking a disappointingly blunt and unfocused approach to dramatizing the real-life events that inspired it."[18] Based on 37 critics on Metacritic, the film's weighted average score is 57 out of 100, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[19]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
California on Location Awards December 15, 2019 Location Team of the Year - Independent Feature Film Ken Lavet, Leslie Thorson, Rachel Nelson, Anna L. Coats, Lee, Matthew Bolin, Lee David, Peter Cubas, Neil Dave Nominated
Cinema for Peace Awards May 7, 2019 Most Valuable Movie of the Year The Laundromat Nominated
Costume Designers Guild Awards January 28, 2020 Excellence in Contemporary Film Ellen Mirojnick Nominated
Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild January 11, 2020 Best Contemporary Hair Styling in a Motion Picture Marie Larkin, Yvette Stone and J. Roy Helland Nominated
San Sebastián International Film Festival 2020 City of Donostia Audience Award Steven Soderbergh Nominated
St. Louis Film Critics Association December 15, 2019 Worst Film of the Year The Laundromat Nominated
Venice Film Festival September 7, 2019 Golden Lion The Laundromat Nominated


On October 16, 2019, weeks after its limited theatrical release and just two days before its scheduled streaming release, the two Mossack Fonseca law firm partners at the center of the film, Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, sued Netflix in an attempt to block the film's release.[20][21] They argued the film defamed them. Netflix responded the next day calling the suit "laughable," and argued the film was "constitutionally protected speech."[22] A Connecticut judge denied the injunction and moved the case to California, allowing the film to be released as planned.[23] The Panamanian government also expressed strong objections to the film's release. In December 2019 a U.S. District Court Judge ruled that the film did not defame Mossack and Fonseca; and was protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as free speech.[24][25]

Panama's vice president José Gabriel Carrizo pledged that Panama would do everything in its power to "fix" the country's image worldwide.[26][27]


  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. ^ "Panama grants bail to Mossack Fonseca founders in Brazil corruption case" Reuters 2017-04-22
  4. ^ "Netflix's 'The Laundromat' Goes On as Court Transfers Lawsuit" New York Times 2019-10-18
  5. ^ McNary, Dave (July 7, 2016). "Panama Papers Movie in the Works From Steven Soderbergh". Variety. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  6. ^ Perez, Rodrigo (April 12, 2018). "Steven Soderbergh Shooting 'Panama Papers' Movie Next, Title Revealed". The Playlist. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  7. ^ "Meryl Streep to Star in Panama Papers Thriller for Steven Soderbergh (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  8. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (May 14, 2018). "Steven Soderbergh Panama Papers Pic 'The Laundromat' Has Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep & Antonio Banderas Circling". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  9. ^ "Steven Soderbergh says he'll probably choose Netflix to distribute his next movie: 'I don't care if it never shows in a theater'". Business Insider. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  10. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (October 9, 2018). "Netflix Commits To Panama Papers Drama 'The Laundromat'; David Schwimmer Joins Soderbergh, Oldman, Streep, Banderas". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  11. ^ Barfield, Charles (October 18, 2018). "Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeffrey Wright & More Join Steven Soderbergh's 'The Laundromat'". The Playlist. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  12. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (October 19, 2018). "Robert Patrick Boards Steven Soderbergh's Panama Papers Netflix Drama 'The Laundromat'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
  13. ^ "The Laundromat". Backstage. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  14. ^ Anderson, Ariston (July 25, 2019). "Venice Film Festival Unveils Lineup (Updating Live)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  15. ^ Lang, Brent (July 23, 2019). "Toronto Film Festival: 'Joker,' 'Ford v Ferrari,' 'Hustlers' Among Big Premieres". Variety. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ McClintock, Pamela (August 27, 2019). "Netflix Dates 'Marriage Story,' 'Laundromat' and Other Fall Award Films". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  18. ^ "The Laundromat (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  19. ^ "The Laundromat Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  20. ^ Grater, Tom (October 16, 2019). "Panama Papers Law Firm Sues Netflix Over 'The Laundromat,' Seeks To Halt Release Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  21. ^ "Lawyers depicted in 'Panama Papers' film sue Netflix for defamation". Fox News. January 27, 2019.
  22. ^ Grater, Tom (October 17, 2019). "Netflix Counters "Laughable" 'Laundromat' Lawsuit, Cites "Constitutionally Protected Speech"". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  23. ^ Hipes, Patrick (October 18, 2019). "Judge Ruling In 'The Laundromat' Lawsuit Clears Path For Netflix Release". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  24. ^ "Judge rejects Panama Papers law firm’s libel case against Netflix over 'The Laundromat'" International Consortium of Investigative Journalists 2021-04-01.
  25. ^ "Case 2:19-cv-09330-CBM-AS Document 75", MOSSACK FONSECA & CO., S.A., et al., Plaintiffs, v. NETFLIX INC., UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA. Filed 12/23/20 p. 1 (ID #:990)
  26. ^ "Panamá "redoblará esfuerzos" para mejorar su imagen tras película de Netflix". October 18, 2019. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  27. ^ "Carrizo dice que Panamá superará mala imagen de la película de Netflix "The Laundromat"". Telemetro. September 4, 2019. Retrieved September 17, 2020.

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