“People believe money is a tool,” a character declares in Costa-Gavras’s corporate handwringer. “The better you treat it, the better it serves you.” Film genres work the same way, and the intelligent respect the Greek filmmaker has shown for the political potboiler, from the epochal Z (1969) to Missing (1982), has resulted in a mutually beneficial relationship. He’s less chummy with the financial thriller, however, as Capital proves with interest to spare; the venerable director knows how to keep suspense thrumming regardless of where skulduggery takes place, but the world of hostile takeovers and torn-from-the-news-ticker shenanigans seems to elude him a bit.
You see the potential: The head of a major banking organization collapses on the golf course, and a young Parisian executive (Gad Elmaleh) gets kicked up to the throne. He quickly starts throwing his weight around, incurring the wrath of the firm’s fat cats and ordering massive layoffs to drive up stock prices. (Since we meet him just as he ascends to power, there’s no sense of whether this newly minted king is a moral man corrupted by greed or a shark who’s been quietly lying in wait. Ruthless is as ruthless does, apparently.) A cabal of American hedge-fund hotshots, led by Gabriel Byrne—because, why not?—think this is just the guy who can help them with a lucrative, less-than-legal power play. But where does that dark-skinned supermodel (Liya Kebede) who’s been stalking the exec fit in? And what’s up with the company’s expert (CélineSallette) on Japanese economics?
Questions abound, but after a pleasurably tense opening act, the film limps along, content to offer little more than pricks in suits stabbing each other in the back and more luxury-item festishizing and conspicuous good-life consumption than a ’90s hip-hop video. Things go slack when the screws should tighten, and Capital ends up being neither a high-stakes thriller nor a cutting commentary on real-world bad behavior. It’s just CEO exotica, all dressed up with nowhere to go.
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