Reel Critics: 'Money for Nothing' worth the price

Only a documentary about the Federal Reserve could have the real luminaries of the system as the stars of the film.

Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, Paul Volcker and a host of Treasury officials appear as themselves in "Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve." They appear not as actors, but as central figures in archival footage revealing their role in creating the financial crisis that remains with us to this day.

Writer-director Jim Bruce has fashioned a sharp, witty and caustic look at one of the most powerful institutions in the world. American money once took the form of gold and silver. Bruce explains with candor and humor how 100 years of Federal Reserve policies transformed our money into pieces of paper printed at will by the Fed.

Bruce walks the viewer through the Great Depression, the hyper-inflation of the 1970s and the stock and real estate bubbles of the past decade. He logically shows how all these events were bound to result in the great debt crisis that now threatens our monetary system. It's a startling and sobering story we all need to understand.

—John Depko


'Prisoners' an everyday shocker

"Prisoners" is a parent's worst nightmare: Basically, two little girls go out to play on a quiet Thanksgiving afternoon and disappear.

It's the unthinkable in their quiet neighborhood. The loving parents (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello, Viola Davis and Terrence Howard) each cope with the unbearable in their own way.

Keller (Jackman) handles it by getting angry, lashing out at Det. Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) when the lone suspect (Paul Dano) is released for lack of evidence. Convinced that the creep must be guilty, Keller kidnaps and tortures him to get a confession, but his methods go nowhere.

This is not just a movie about revenge. It's a haunting whodunit that keeps us riveted with searing performances and unnerving plot twists. What if Keller is right? Will finding the girls alive justify the means?

But worse, what if Keller is wrong in his righteous anger? Isn't this man now as much of a monster as the kids' abductor? How will his own family regard him when they find out what he did?

Jackman is outstanding as the tormented, desperate father. But it is Gyllenhaal's dark, quiet presence that grounds the film. Many sins of the past are uncovered here, and we get the sense that Loki may be a prisoner of sorrows as well.

"Prisoners" is heartbreaking and shocking. The final act is every bit a nail-biter as "The Silence of the Lambs," and it's most frightening that this type of evil against children happens every day in real life.

—Susanne Perez

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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