out of Five
Running time: 95
Greenwald’s documentary is painstakingly researched and extremely comprehensive but it lacks focus and jumps around too much to engage on an emotional level.
What’s it all about?
Film-maker Robert Greenwald has made a career out of anti-establishment documentaries (such as Outfoxed and Uncovered: The War on Iraq), amassing 25 Emmy awards in the process.
Here he sets his sights on the nefarious business practices of retail giant Wal-Mart and gives them both barrels, exposing discrimination, sweatshops and violation of child labour laws among a multitude of other offences.
Greenwald’s approach is none too subtle. He includes footage of a typically gung-ho speech by Wal-Mart President Lee Scott (who unsurprisingly declined to be interviewed) and then undercuts everything he says to prove the opposite. The film is constantly on the attack, covering several different areas and even going as far as China, in order to conduct covert interviews with appallingly paid sweatshop workers.
Unsurprisingly, there aren’t many laughs (save for a few excerpts from Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show and a couple of spoof Wal-Mart promos) and the film occasionally cries out for a Michael Moore or a Morgan Spurlock figure, who could leaven all the misery with a sarcastic barb or two and also provide some much-needed focus.
The main problem is that Greenwald’s scattershot approach means that just as you are getting interested in one element of the film (such as the hard-working black woman with a perfect record who wanted to be a manager but was told there was no place for someone like her at management level) it moves on to something else, leaving no room for the audience to get emotionally involved with the film’s subjects.
If Greenwald’s intention was to make the audience very angry indeed then the film is a resounding success, but it’s not on the level of something like Supersize Me or Bowling for Columbine. That said, it’ll definitely make you want to boycott Asda.
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (PG)