Greek-born French filmmaker Costa-Gavras has gone after “isms”—fascism, Nazism, imperialism—in vivid political melodramas like Z and Missing, as well as less accomplished, though watchable, movies like Music Box and Amen.
The director’s latest tackles capitalism, and the title, Capital, is essentially the only apt thing about it. A tacky corporate noir that makes you long for the leanness of Margin Call, or even the clumsy theatrics of Arbitrage, the film revolves around Marc, a Parisian executive (French-Moroccan comic Gad Elmaleh) unexpectedly named CEO of a bank.
Much to the irritation of the board of directors, Marc proves to be an uncontrollable S.O.B., all too willing to follow the lead of the story’s real villains: American shareholders who pressure him into laying off dozens of employees—a no-no in the land of strict worker protections—and making reckless investments.
Capital is a parable about France selling out to keep up with America’s “cowboy capitalism,” but the film’s portrayal of soulless suits is so obvious and silly—typical dialogue: “CEOs write checks, fire people, and eat well; watch your waistline”—that it’s hard to muster more than a yawn and a giggle (the latter when a malevolent femme fatale licks globs of caviar from her knee). Little feels fresh, from the generically pulsing score to the chilly grays of Eric Gautier’s cinematography to the long-suffering wife character.
Most fatally, sweet-looking Elmaleh fails to convince as a shark. He’s more persuasive flinching at a family dinner while his socialist uncle scolds him for firing people. Marc may be a bastard, but he’s a French bastard, through and through.