Wednesday, August 24, 2011

[DVD] Rogue Trader (1999)

I Like Big Money

This was one of those films that was shot in Singapore but didn't get a proper theatrical release here, opting to go straight to video despite having an A-lister in Ewan McGregor helming the leading role, portraying a true to life incident about one of the biggest bank fraud in history taking place right here in the Lion City. Singapore has her fair share of commercial and financial fraud, many of them high profile no thanks to them being committed by employees of large, reputable corporations, and this was one of them, where Nick Leeson got infamously credited for bringing down Barings Bank, one of England's oldest merchant bank at the time.

For all the recent socio-political concerns over the influx of foreign talent to our shores and taking up jobs that locals can probably do themselves, this one, if taken at face value since biographical films always have a tinge of dramatic license being taken, offered the notion that not all Caucasians that make it here are of the cream of the crop variety. In this cinematic Nick Leeson's case, he's but someone low on the rungs of the organization as a clerk, known better for his hardworking attributes rather than his financial acumen. With an opening in the far east here and having chalk up a job well done in Indonesia where he met his future wife Lisa (Anna Friel), he becomes the bank's go to man for this Asia based job in opening up a new options and derivatives trading arm, coming in on expatriate terms with perks on the table, and a job with high expectations.

On hindsight, this film teaches a lot on the nature of having good corporate governance, water tight processes and having the proper checks and balances rigorously executed rather than being just on paper or paid lip service to. In very simple narrative terms, episodes where opportunities to go rogue get presented in very clear terms, from the abuse of a special account used to mask losses, to blatant forgery, this is something of a wake up call when tremendous trust gets placed on star employees, only for that trust to be betrayed, and worse when it is basic greed that overshadowed what actually needed to be done. I can't help but to chuckle at how Nick Leeson can get away with blue murder even, since he's the one man everyone in the corporation goes to when needing huge amounts of profits to generate their multi-million dollar obscene year end bonuses, meaning if Nick Leeson walks, so does the amount of profits his outfit can generate. If only the suits on the board knew.

In some ways you can point your finger around and blame it on those who never saw it coming because of their own flaws, greed, or just plain simple indifference to someone's probable misdoing based only on the strength of their manipulated balance sheet, Hire the wrong person or so called Talent and he'll rob you blind in terms of money, time and effort, and Rogue Trader through its sole objective in almost documenting the culprit's shenanigans of the confident con man, who at one time through a fluke success got heralded as a guru of sorts on the local bourse, If only it was known how one can actually bet big and one day win big, but not all the time, which is almost too good to be true.

Since the crime took place in Singapore, you'd get to see a number of outdoor locations being used especially in and around the city centre area, with a couple of local stars making cameo appearances such as Selena Tan as the eagle eyed auditor, Geald Chew, Ivan Heng as a bartender and Lim Kay Siu as a policeman. Very small roles here compared to the group of actors playing Nick Leeson's posse in his company trading for him on the forex floor, with more screen time opposite Ewan McGregor. Anna Friel's Lisa character was quite a trophy of a role rather than being a strong character, occassionally speaking up against the troubles ailing her husband, but I was quite surprised at her insistence to leave the country especially when they're time is up. There's the obvious romantic subplot here about matrimonial vows which is a little sad on Nick's part, especially if one has read his memoirs and followed the news during his incarceration about the couples inevitable break up.

As a film it wasn't that remarkable in terms of production values, but you can't find a more direct, simple biographical tale about corporate checks and balance that is shot in Singapore. Recommended especially for managers who have to look after balance sheets, whether you're aware of what's really going on, or are having some wool pulled over your eyes by a very smart, rogue employee.

The Region 1 DVD by Miramax Home Entertainment presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen transfer, with audio available in Dolby Digital Stereo. Subtitles are only in English closed caption with scene selection available over 21 chapters. No extra features on this disc other than a Film Recommendations section in text only, introducing film such as Little Voice, Brassed Off, Emma, Velvet Goldmine, Trainspotting and Monument Ave.

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