July 24, 2024

# A Lackluster Documentary Based on an Intriguing Showbiz Scammer

“Bad Actor: A Hollywood Ponzi Scheme” is an intriguing tale revolving around Zach Horowitz, a.k.a. Zach Avery who is a financial scam artist and D-List actor. However, the film narrates his story in a less captivating manner. The documentary borrows its structure from superior and polished documentaries, the mixed format never seems to mesh well, due to the lackluster execution of information revelation.

Joslyn Jensen, the director of the film has a significant screen presence from the start and becomes a key part of the journey. The narrative turns out to be as much about her experiences as it is about Avery and his victims – people he scammed millions of dollars out of. Sadly, Jensen’s storytelling is rather drab and takes up a lot of screen time, making the film more process-oriented.


On one side, the documentary explores how Avery tricked people in his loop. He was an actor desperately seeking screen presence, paying for minor roles or forging distribution contracts with giants like Netflix for his Ponzi scheme, all of which is comprehensively explained in the film. Conversely, “Bad Actor” is overly involved in presenting and justifying its own methodology, often resulting in unachieved artistic goals.

Jensen posits that the self-produced films by Avery could be seen as unconscious admittance of his sins. However, the film seldom delivers on this proposition. While it intermittently takes an essayistic approach, utilizing clips from renowned Hollywood films such as “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” to emphasize Avery’s ambition and deception, Avery’s own works are hardly used as explanatory devices. The documentary often lowers to the level of a poorly produced YouTube video essay, with Jensen continually seen explaining Avery’s crimes or Ponzi schemes to the camera.

At times, subjects in the film make a distinction between “Zach Horowitz” and “Zach Avery,” suggesting possibly two distinct personas. Yet, no one quite elaborates on this difference. Instead of presenting key information or revelations about Avery, the film allows Jensen to nonchalantly drop major revelations, such as the case’s result or Avery’s marriage status. Rather than building suspense, the narrative becomes as barren as a Wikipedia page.

Avery himself has an ambiguous presence through archive footage and photographs in the documentary. An intriguing aspect of the film lies in its reenactments that employ actual actors associated with the subject. However, despite building a whole cast, there are few dramatic restagings. The ineffective aim seems to be to capture the actors’ opinions on Avery, his wife, and his victims, in a similar manner to how “Casting Jonbenet,” a true crime documentary about the Jonbenet Ramsey case, did. However, “Bad Actor” fails to manage what the Kitty Green film did, resulting in non-expert opinions on his victims and his crimes without any substance.

The film eventually culminates in a major revelation regarding its production, drawing parallels with Bart Layton’s “The Imposter”. The intent is for viewers to question who they trust and whether they would have fallen for Avery’s schemes. However, as so much time is devoted to building this subterfuge, “Bad Actor” fails to build substantial interest, making the twist no more than a minor hiccup in the narrative.

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## FAQ

### Who is the subject of the documentary “Bad Actor: A Hollywood Ponzi Scheme”?
The documentary details the story of Zach Horowitz or Zach Avery, a D-list actor and a financial fraudster who scammed multiple people out of millions of dollars.

### How has the director of the documentary presented the story?
Joslyn Jensen, the director, has tackled the narrative in a complex and multifaceted approach drawing techniques from superior documentaries. However, her endless on-screen presence and lackluster storytelling make the film fall flat.

### What is unusual about the documentary’s narrative and its conclusion?
The narrative becomes particularly focused on explaining the Ponzi scheme and its proceedings instead of providing more information about Avery’s life and character. The major revelation towards the end of the film is intended to make viewers question who they trust, but the documentary spends far too much time building this deceit, making it a minor hiccup rather than a significant twist in the tale.