Money is power, but it is also the root of evil. As inhabitants of a Judeo-Christian capitalist society, this is a paradox that we all often find ourselves wrestling with: the idea that money is a malevolent force that we must seek out at the same time if we wish to coexist with others. Sometimes, this paradox stops existing in the background and slaps us in the face. Money Machine is an attempt at just such an experience; a documentary about how money can make atrocities disappear. Unfortunately, a lack of focus and the occasional veering into conspiracy theory territory never allow it to get there.
Ramsey Denison’s Money Machine begins at the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting at a country music festival. The doc’s thesis is that, despite being the deadliest mass shooting in American history, the shooting was quickly swept under the rug and forgotten. In order to explain this situation, Denison does a deep dive into Las Vegas from a variety of perspectives and, while this may make for an interesting mini-series or something similar, this is the doc’s undoing. Denison is more concerned with info-dumping than telling a coherent narrative. This documentary has all the makings of an expose: there are interviews with victims, an interview with the shooter’s brother—who provides some fascinating insight—a historical study of Vegas’ movement from a money-laundering scheme conducted by gangsters to a family-friendly vacation spot, updates, small internal details that went missing, just a little bit of everything, really. However, all of these details are so rushed and shoddily put together that they begin to lose their importance. By the time the viewer finds themselves shocked by something, two new topics have already been introduced. By the time COVID is mentioned, the audience will have already tapped out.
Unfortunately, the biggest issue at play here is the conspiratorial tone within the first act. The director suggests early on that there must have been several shooters; the majority of the evidence being that a few panic-stricken people felt that there must have been. This strand adds nothing to the narrative, serving to perhaps diminish the impact of the film, especially in the current QAnon-era of conspiracy theories. This multiple shooter narrative is possibly the first of far-too-many narratives shoehorned into this far-too-short doc, which is regrettable because there is certainly a great documentary hiding somewhere within this feature.
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