Dir: Robert Greenwald, 2005, USA (95 min)
It’s not often that you feel Michael Moore’s presence would add a little subtlety to a subject. But this documentary, on retail behemoth Wal-Mart, is in dire need of some levity and wit.
The cataloguing of Wal-Mart’s sharp practices is laudable and extensive, highlighting the impact of new stores on the pre-existing smaller traders who get muscled out. It goes on to show the low-wage culture and how this is systematically maintained by the pressure on employees to put in free overtime, aggressive anti-union activities including surveillance and intimidation, and the offering of healthcare insurance that is so expensive that employees are encouraged to apply for state benefits.
The film successfully reunites the cheap products of the store with the exploited labour that created them but the execution is crude, with poor camera work, cloying musical underscores and a hysterical misuse of statistics that ultimately weakens its credibility. Kate Taylor