Though it often feels like Robert De Niro is firmly in the “Really? He said yes to THAT?!” phase of his career, every once in a while he does something to slap down the cynics (and people still giving him shit for Dirty Grandpa) and remind everyone that he’s still got It. And, yes, he can turn It on whenever he wants.
The Wizard of Lies, HBO’s new original film from directr Barry Levinson (Wag the Dog, Good Morning, Vietnam), looks like it could be the latest of these displays of raw acting power from De Niro. He stars as the titular wizard, Ponzi scheme mastermind and real-life supervillain Bernie Madoff.
The film seems to pick up on Madoff just as he’s admitting to his family that he stole billions from investors at his firm, making their life savings vanish and orchestrating one of the most devastating finanical crimes in American history. That means this trailer is more abut the fallout than the crime itself, as Madoff’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and sons (Alessandro Nivola and Nathan Darrow) grapple with his admission. All of America, you’ll recall, turns on the entire family.
At the center of it all, there’s De Niro, looking at once defensive and inscrutable as he plays a man who seems both amazed that he got away with it for as long as he did, and horrified that he somehow kept his secret and robbed people blind for so long. What does somethng like that do to a man’s soul? If De Niro really is at the peak of his powers, as this trailer hints he is, we’re about to find out.
The Wizard of Lies premieres May 20 on HBO.