Producers: Jonah Tulis, Blake J. Harris, Josh Braun and Dan Braun Director: Jonah Tulis Cast: Justin Dopierala, Rod Alzmann, Dmitriy Kozin, Farris Husseini, Jenn Kruza, Tom Barton, Jeff Tarzia, Joe Fonicello, Abbe Minor, Rigoberto Alcaraz and Andrew Left Distributor: Neon Super LTD
When the GameStop brouhaha roiled Wall Street back in January, 2021, it was a frantic episode in trading and commentary, and Jonah Tulis’ documentary mirrors it with a rushed, breathless approach to the event. The collage of found footage and interview clips newly shot by Marc Ritzema have been assembled by Tulis and his editing team (Henry Moskowitz and Josh Bayer, with Douglas Blush listed as “supervising editor) into a hyperkinetic ninety-four-minute collage that’s propelled not just by constant visual stimulation but Jeff Beal’s equally hectic score.
And yet in reality although the film touches on the mechanics of the price explosion that suddenly took GameStop stock from bargain-basement status to the stratosphere in a period of weeks, endangering the bottom line of hedge funds that had bet against the company’s survival by short-selling it—the result of a so-called “short squeeze” engineered in considerable measure by one-line promoters like Keith Gill (aka “Roaring Kitty”) and abetted by investor apps like Robinhood—its attention to those relatively abstruse financial matters is really just background to its actual subject.
That’s the unlikely bounty it brought to the relatively small group of “diamond hands”—small-time investors who had genuine affection for the company, assessed by the experts as a brick-and-mortar dinosaur dealing in video games and electronics, that was doomed to become “Blockbuster 2.0,” and had invested in it as a matter of passion. They’re the “players” of the title—not Gill, or Robinhood CEO Vladimir Tenev, or analysts Tom Barton Rod Alzmann, Joe Fonicello and Andrew Left, or hedge fund honchos Gabe Plotkin and Kenneth Griffin, or even Ryan Cohen, the co-founder of internet pet-service behemoth Chewy, whose investment in GameStop late in 2020 helped spur hopes in a turnaround at the money-losing company.
All of them get some coverage here, in the form of news footage or interviews but most of the film is devoted to the small-time investors like Justin Dopierala, a Wisconsin money manager, software engineer Dimitriy Kozin and games tester Jeff Tarzia, among others, who bought GameStop stock when in was in the pits, hoping for a miraculously recovery that came, though engineered by others as part of a rebuke to the hedge-funders and market experts who thought they were in charge.
‘’These “diamond hands” were true believers, not master manipulators, and so seeing their triumph as a David and Goliath story is really wide of the mark—they were certainly small in terms of the size of their investments, but they hardly slew the giant, rather went along on a wild ride driven by others. But for the most part they come across as fairly likable folks whose accidental success you’re not likely to begrudge them, especially by comparison to some of the more obnoxious big wheels who also appear here. Jenn Kruza, for example, who tells of her battle with cancer, is an appealing person one could root for.
At the same time, one should remember that there were plenty of small-time investors who decided to jump on the GameStop bandwagon when the stock was already at astronomical heights, and lost big-time when it inevitably plummeted back down to earth (although even today it remains way over the single-digit price it had before the “short squeeze” episode.
What the true value of GameStop as a company is, only time will tell. Much will depend on its ability to reinvent itself to meet changing consumer preferences. And if one is interested in getting a complete, detailed dissection of the whole 2020-2021 Wall Street phenomenon presented in a clear, carefully laid out fashion, this film isn’t really for you; it’s more enthusiastic than analytical. Undoubtedly there will come other documentaries and semi-fictionalized treatments that will be more to your taste.
But if you’re willing to settle for a high-octane celebration of a few ordinary people who hitched their wagon to a very unlikely star and rode it to riches, this one is for you, though all the technical hullabaloo makes for an awfully exhausting journey.