Failure is spun into success if the cards are played right. This is what Bankrupt Billionaire hopes to convince its viewers of. Those who lost everything in the financial crash of 2008 still had their hopes and spirits. Even the billionaires, who it is harder and harder every day to feel much sympathy for, made losses. Sean Quinn is one of them. A billionaire who turned bankrupt and had the last decade or two of his life implode. But this is for the outsider looking in. What comes of Bankrupt Billionaire is the long-running campaign to terrorise a man into making decisions outside of his control and away from his interests. That much, on a human level beyond riches, can be understood and invested in, as director Trevor Birney tries to find.
Yet Birney, for all his efforts in bringing colour and background to Quinn’s life, fails to do so with much conviction or line of reason. Slowly burning through a vaguely known man’s family life, relevant or not, happens too frequently. Speaking of bus lanes and early years unrelated to the downfall which dominated headlines does set the scene for a man as every day as the rest of us, but then he had billions to lose and some have hundreds. This divide is a back-and-forth problem for Bankrupt Billionaire and it is never shored up. Plenty of stock footage and archival interviews with Quinn as he talks through his thoughts on investment, that is the meat of this one. If it feels good, he buys it. Fair play, but there are some bits and pieces which are not worth the gamble, which Quinn finds.
Bankrupt Billionaire takes some time to get going but once it has its claws in, it becomes an effective and interesting piece on how the billionaires out there are still running risks despite their presumed security. Arrogance? Honesty? It was surely more than gut feeling but the interviews with Quinn see a man both specific and elusive. Where it is not an intentional throwing off of the scent as The Amazing Jonathan did, it does add to the layers provided throughout as the various experts chime in on what went wrong for a man who once said he never stole a penny. Good on him, a lot of us tend not to. Whether the driving force is greed or growth, sometimes they are one and the same and Bankrupt Billionaire begins to showcase the traction Quinn gained. The newspaper articles, the financial overhaul, the plain and simple divide between a man’s alleged humble beginnings and his helicopter trophies.
All of it comes together like a canned Succession without the family and without the interest. Still a lack of warmth as various financial journalists pull themselves together to try and simplify a tale of a wildcard who bit off more than he could chew. Where there is health there is heart and where the heart lies is in family and honest, humble beginnings. This much is shown, by the card games among friends and the relaxed life Quinn now tries to lead with the bedlam and pressures of his past weighing heavy. Never does it feel right to feel bad for a billionaire but Bankrupt Billionaire does well to maintain credible, neutral stances despite its director leaping in front of the camera to make his own assertions. Tensions are inevitable in the business world, but whether they could be handled better, whether they could be easier on the mind and soul, Bankrupt Billionaire is not too interested.