When it comes to combining fraud with entertainment the documentary medium is arguably the gold standard. And when it comes to original content, Netflix with it’s new docu-series Dirty Money, the bar has been set once again.
Over standalone episodes, Dirty Money explores different headlines and the systemic fraud at the heart of each industry, company or individual. It’s one of the rare moments where my frustration and anger directed towards a piece of content is positive. The series comes from the mind of director Alex Gibney, who’s responsible for Enron: Smartest Guys in the Room, amongst other groundbreaking documentaries.
There are some headlines you know a ton about—the Martin Shkreli drug hike for example—but there’s some you might have missed. A very Canadian example comes to mind in an episode titled “the maple syrup heist.” It revolves around, you guessed, it the 2012 heist of over 18 million dollars of that sweet, sweet goodness. While I was aware of the actual theft, Dirty Money does a fantastic job of exploring the rabbit hole that is the specific Quebec federation that controls the supply of maple syrup, and its tight control over those who produce the nectar of the north. I came away from that episode with a ton of new information that I didn’t know I wanted, which is indicative of the entire series.
The production values are also fantastic, with each episode carrying a different ascetic but Dirty Money also maintains an overall cohesion that makes the entire series like a polished package, which being a Netflix original, is most certainly a given. The only gripe I have with the show is that I wanted more. Because with standalone shows like this, there isn’t a narrative crux that could drag on if there were say 10 episodes and there should have been eight. While Dirty Money feels tight and controlled, I wish there were a few extra episodes focusing on some of the more outlandish corruption cases of the past 20 years. But in saying all of this, I wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix at some point in the near future, orders a second batch of episodes and just flies them under the original banner.
Overall, Dirty Money is a fantastic look at the systemic fraud that investigators, lawyers, and journalists cover on a daily basis. While some of the content might not be new and fresh for those who have been in the fraud recovery industry for some time, there is a lot of interesting information doled out in a way that I thought was thoughtful and infuriating.
Dirty Money is out now and is definitely worth a weekend watch.