Wal-Mart: The High Cost of a Low Price

"Very Good"

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of a Low Price Review


When it comes to the shibboleths loathed by the left, from President Bush to Fox News, the one that seems to generate the most antipathy is the discount behemoth that is Wal-Mart. In his new muckraking film Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, Robert Greenwald - who previously went after Rupert Murdoch's flag-waving news channel in Outfoxed - takes on America's single biggest employer, an entity that stands accused of everything from annihilating small town economies to union-busting. While the result can at times seem more like a very effective promotional tool for the current vogue of Wal-Mart boycotts than a proper documentary, it also stands as a good model of how to approach such an emotional topic without hysteria - a rarity in agitprop films of this kind.

The structure of Greenwald's film is pretty simple but effective, it's one used quite often by newsmagazine shows like Dateline. Each segment begins with an idyllic presentation of a small-town business or ordinary workers just trying to make ends meet and raise their families. Then we find out how Wal-Mart has not only torched these people's lives but done so in a way that's hard for even the most ardently laissez-faire capitalist not to be disturbed by. It's difficult to look at scene after scene of vacant storefronts on the deserted main streets of small towns - an effect of a Wal-Mart opening nearby which is memorably referred to by one person as akin to a neutron bomb explosion - and not feel that this is an area where something more complicated than strict supply and demand rules need to be considered.

Greenwald sidesteps criticism of media elitism by wisely focusing not on professional agitators, union leaders, or economics professors and instead giving us the word straight from the people directly affected, an often solidly red state bunch who hunt and vote Republican but think there's something un-American and monopolistic about this corporation. There's mom-and-pop business owners furious about losing their decades-old stores, not through fair competition, but because their local government gave millions in tax subsidies to a new Wal-Mart but wouldn't give a dollar to locals.

But the real meat of the film's argument comes with the company's treatment of its workers. The litany of accusations here might be familiar, but they're nevertheless affecting, ranging from illegal workers locked in the stores overnight to employees forced to go on government assistance (which store managers helpfully provide them with information about) and union-busting activities (including spy cameras and intimidation) that seem to have been learned from Warsaw Pact spy agencies. What gives Greenwald's arguments more heft than might be expected is the large number of former high-level employees he's rounded up, managers with 10 to 15 years' experience at Wal-Mart, who are more than happy to explain the details of the company's rapacious profit-mongering, whether it's how to cheat workers out of overtime pay, keep women and minorities out of leadership positions, or hide shoddy conditions in overseas factories.

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Living will win few points for art -- this is take-no-prisoners propaganda -- but its subject matter provides such a wealth of material that subtlety is hardly required, nor even desired.

The high light over a low store.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Producer: , Jim Gilliam, Devin Smith

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Advertisement
Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Passengers Movie Review

Passengers Movie Review

Anchored by the almost ridiculously engaging Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, this sci-fi movie travels...

Neruda Movie Review

Neruda Movie Review

Clever Chilean director Pablo Larrain (who also directed Natalie Portman's Jackie) takes on the Nobel-winning...

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

Narrated by Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens), this documentary is one of the most gripping...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.