• Nate Adams

'GameStop: Rise of the Players' review: Wild documentary captures saga of the meme stock


Courtesy of NEON

 

One year ago, almost to the day, many watched the financial markets with mouths agape at the trajectory of the beleaguered brick and mortar video game retailer GameStop as their stock balloon to unprecedented levels peaking near the $500 dollar mark when a week prior it was in the low double digits. What happened? How did an enterprise closing hundreds of stores a week and constantly put under a microscope because of the shift in digitized gaming somehow make the most robust financial comeback in the 21st century? The answer is unspooled in the blazing (and quite fun) documentary “GameStop: Rise of the Players.”


The documentary, from filmmaker Jonah Tulis, who made the video game doc “Console Wares,” focuses on the little guys who squeezed the big hedge funds, those banking on the stocks to fail, into submission. The media went into a frenzy trying to sort this David vs. Goliath story and though “Rise of the Players” features a couple grumpy anti-GameStop establishment schmucks, the entirety of the film, compromised of archival footage, hilarious reddit memes, and talking heads, gives more airtime to those who slayed the beast than the beast itself. You don’t need to be well versed in financial jargon or savvy in the stock market to understand the logistics, “Rise of the Players” does a fine job reaching across the line and appealing to a broader audience.


How can you not root for the small-time investors who lurk in obscure Reddit chains, saw the potential for growth and effectively slit the kneecaps of the billion-dollar financial bros? These pranksters stood up against a common foe and, for once, showed how capitalism can work for the little guy. Of course, it didn’t last long as popular trading apps like “Robinhood” temporarily halted buying and selling stocks to curb the demand brought forth by the insane GameStop hike, and thus created more questions about how government subsidiaries basically control the market whenever it benefits them. We already knew this, and “Rise of the Players” isn’t rewriting the status quo or trying to break away from conventional storytelling mechanics, but it chugs along at a spit-fire rate despite the occasional use of unappealing visuals.


By keeping most of the focus on the “heroes” of the saga, “GameStop: Rise of the Players” becomes easy to embrace, acting as a wake-up call for those who are just dabbling in the stock market game and those eager to find the next major bump. We’ve always known there’s strength in numbers and if this documentary, which to be fair isn’t exactly a textbook lesson in investigative journalism (nor did I think it was trying to be), teaches general audiences anything it’s how the market can work for everyone when there’s a common enemy on the frontlines.


Grade: B+


GAMESTOP: RISE OF THE PLAYERS is now playing in theaters.