Home Market "Crypto" is Hollywood's way of spreading irrational FUD

“Crypto” is Hollywood’s way of spreading irrational FUD

On April 12th 2019, a Hollywood movie which covers the topic of cryptocurrencies and their impact on the world is going to get released in theatres. It’s generically titled “Crypto” and according to the synopsis and trailers, presents the story of a Wall Street banker who gets assigned a job in AML (Anti-Money Laundering) and somehow uncovers a world financial conspiracy that leads to Russian mobs who go on to kidnap his family members. Wait, what?!

American actor Beau Knopp plays the role of Martin, a brilliant young man who goes on to make discover some sort of financial conspiracy involving Bitcoin, that does much more than shift the geopolitical powers of the world and causes his family to get kidnapped – which naturally leads to scenes involving guns and gratuitous violence from vigilante archetypes.

The biggest name appearing in the film is Kurt Russel, who in recent years has done a tremendous job playing memorable roles in Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight”, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”, and “Furious Seven”. However, in spite of the evident cheesiness that “Crypto” will be having, it’s also unlikely to feature some memorable artistic moments. Mr. Russel has been given a supporting role, appears to be the character who gets kidnapped by the evil cryptocurrency-using Russians, and has unoriginally been named “Martin Sr.”

If you need further proof that “Crypto” will be nothing but a huge misunderstanding of how the technology works and how bad actors operate, the interfaces shown in the movie resemble basic Coinbase-like dashboards. We shouldn’t expect the film to explain us that the hackers are using Samouai Wallet or other ways to transform each transaction into a Chaumian CoinJoin, and it’s very likely that unknowledgeable audiences who watch “Crypto” will get the wrong impression about cryptocurrencies in general. Also, why aren’t they using Monero or Zcash?

You know it’s bad when they hired a Russian dialogue coach, but no reputed Bitcoin expert

It’s terrible that American film makers are still playing the Cold War card and create the stereotypical Russian criminals (who this time happen to use Bitcoin). Under the tagline “Fear is the ultimate currency”, the producers from Lionsgate rightfully earn their spot in the Bitcoin Hall of FUD.

And before anyone makes claims about watching the movie before making judgements on a 2-minute trailer, it’s worth noting that the full crew page on IMDB lists no reputed Bitcoin or cryptocurrency expert. None of the producers are known in the crypto space, and the only person assigned to supervise the script is Chuck Girard (who is active on Twitter, but only posted 3 times in the last couple of years to address cryptocurrencies – and promoted a giveaway by an obscure Hong Kong ICO analysis company).

Furthermore, if you scroll through the list looking for keywords such as “blockchain”, “cryptocurrency”, or “Bitcoin”, then you won’t find anything. This only goes to show that the approach to the film’s production has been that of integrating a new technology that may create fear among the poorly informed masses into an already-established framework of action flick. It’s like 1983’s “War Games“, where a teenager with a Commodore 64 almost begins World War III on a casual afternoon.

The major difference is that the central element of the plot is magical internet money that Russian terrorists use to conceal their malevolent and anti-American operations. Of course, it’s up to the Wall Street AML guy to pursue these bad guys and save his kidnapped father in a perfect demonstration of how finance schools secretly train marine soldiers.

But hey, if you want to get it right next time, then maybe it would be a good idea to hire a cryptocurrency consultant who actually understands how this kind of stuff works. It’s a smart way of spending your budget if you want to attract the core audience that cares about the topic and would pay to see the film.

The same story about Russian terrorists, now with cryptocurrencies

When I first saw somebody mentioning a movie called “Crypto” on their Twitter feed, I got excited and thought Hollywood has finally decided to do justice to this otherwise complex topic by revealing some technical intricacies in a way that can be understood by general audiences. What I found was a mediocre attempt to re-enact the story we’ve seen a thousand times, with the exceptional protagonist who single-handedly becomes an American hero by taking down a terrorist organization.

If you think that there might at least be some entertainment value thanks to the contribution of Kurt Russel, then you probably shouldn’t get too excited. Director John Stalberg Jr. is doing his first full-length film since 2010’s “High School” which was poorly received by critics. Despite joining Twitter in 2017, he hasn’t posted anything and isn’t following any major personality of business related to any cryptocurrency. So the hypothesis that Mr. Stalberg might have interacted with the Crypto Twitter community has just been busted.

Therefore, it’s very likely that “Crypto” will be an average action film with the regular themes of an extraordinary lead who ends up facing the forces of evil, and then finally returns home triumphant. It’s the Joseph Campbell story ark all over again, it even has the theme about the father being in danger or potentially dying, but it’s been tailored to incorporate cryptocurrency elements. Nevertheless, anyone with a minimum understanding of how Bitcoin works will probably have a good laugh.

Why is Hollywood FUDing Bitcoin?

Now this is a complex topic. If we assume that Hollywood is the worldwide propaganda machine of the US government, then it’s likely that the people in Washington are concerned about the growth of the cryptocurrency phenomenon. They must have observed how the Uncle Sam coin is losing credibility, and since they can’t shut down Bitcoin or do significant harm to the decentralized monetary system, they have decided to reinforce the terrorist money hypothesis.

However, it’s unlikely that this might be the case, since the research behind this cinematic project is poor. If they wanted to create the silver screen equivalent of a PSA on the dangers of cryptocurrencies, they would have focused their attention on Monero, Zcash, Grin, and other privacy coins. Bitcoin without a CoinJoin procedure is easily traceable, and most exchanges have developed internal “intelligence analysis” units to associate transactions with metadata and KYC information.

A 2018 Europol report has revealed that Bitcoin hasn’t funded any terror reports in Europe, and defense expert Yaya Fanusie has told US Congress that there are no crypto ATMs in the deserts and mountains, so it’s not through these assets that terrorists receive most of their funds. These two bits of information have been discovered in less than ten minutes of doing research, so the intentions of the “Crypto” movie producers are questionable.

At this point, it’s hard to tell why a Hollywood studio is delivering such a ridiculous story at this point in Bitcoin’s development. Is it a way to convince the public that more KYC/AML measures are required? Is this an attempt to make everyone forget that it’s the US dollar which finances most criminal and terrorist operations worldwide? Do they really think everyone is this stupid and will fall for a tear-jerking flick?

It’s unlikely that watching “Crypto” will help me find out the answers to these questions. Nevertheless, it’s very likely that I’ll watch it on April 12th and laugh really loudly. Or better yet, I’d purchase my movie ticket with Bitcoin.


Cover image: IMDB


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Vlad Costea
Vlad Costea
Vlad is a political science graduate who got a little tired and disillusioned with the old highly-hierarchical and centralized world and decided to give this anarchistic blockchain invention a little try. He found out about Bitcoin in 2014, had to do a presentation about it at Sciences Po Paris in 2015, but was too foolish to buy any. Now that he’ll never be a crypto millionaire and hasn’t acquired his golden ticket to lifelong financial independence, he’ll just write op-eds on various topics.


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