$upercapitalist

Critic rating:
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MPAA rating: NR
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
A brash hedge fund trader moves to Hong Kong to work on a deal that spins out of his control.
Starring: Linus Roache, Kenneth Tsang, Derek Ting, Richard Ng, Kathy Uyen, Darren E. Scott, Michael Park
Director: Simon Yin
Running time: 1:41
Release: Opened Aug 17, 2012
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Editorial Review

Deal isn’t worth the investment
By Stephanie Merry
Friday, August 17, 2012

How much subtlety can one expect from a movie that spells its title with a dollar sign in place of the capital S? The corporate thriller “Supercapitalist” (or “$upercapitalist,” for purists) has the answer. Plagued by caricatures and culminating in a Scooby-Doo-caliber finale, the film lands in theaters with all of the nuance of an Acme anvil.

The story, written by Derek Ting, follows financial whiz kid and hedge fund trader Conner Lee (also played by Ting). A college dropout, Conner has almost clairvoyant premonitions, and he’s willing to go head to head with his boss over his seemingly off-the-wall predictions. His brashness may not win him the goodwill of his foul-mouthed superior, but it does reward him with a gig in Hong Kong, trying to salvage a struggling investment.

There he meets a cast of characters with outsize egos, including his new co-worker, wingman and all-around bad influence Quentin (Darren E. Scott), an over-the-top caricature of the smarmy Wall Street type. He snorts coke off hookers, bullies pan-handlers, stages three-way trysts in casino bathroom stalls and has a terrible time remembering names. At least, that’s one logical explanation for the amount of times he uses the word “bro.”

Quentin aims to teach Conner how to live, dress and act (as if in a rap video; in bespoke suits; like a jerk). And the up-and-comer is game, at least until he meets a pretty and intelligent businesswoman, who teaches him a valuable lesson: Money isn’t everything. It turns out there are other important things in life, such as friends -- especially ones who don’t use the word bro -- and family.

There’s nothing wrong with a morality tale, which may be why the genre has weathered centuries of adaptations. Elements of the “Supercapitalist” plot hold promise, and it’s a timely moment to consider questionable trading practices.

But so much of the execution here feels needlessly complicated and amateurish to the point of being problematic, including everything from acting to dialogue and camerawork to music. A mix of audio flashbacks and character exchanges are overly explanatory, while the personalities that inhabit this world are downright cartoonish.

The filmmaking likewise calls constant attention to itself. Director Simon Yin has an inclination for montages, but even during more narrative scenes, there’s a distracting tendency to pull the camera away too quickly, and the effect is jarring. Feature films don’t need to follow the laws of video journalism, of course, but it would have been nice had Yin followed one of the unwritten rules of new media, which recommends holding each shot for at least 10 seconds.

The unbelievable dialogue, the forceful message, the short attention span of the camera and a number of other factors add up to a world that never approaches reality. And it only gets worse as the movie proceeds, and murder, masked thugs and double crosses start to crowd the story line. It may not apply to investing, but at least when it comes to movies, less really is more.

Contains language, brief violence, drug use and sexual situations.