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Tuesday, June 22, 1999 Published at 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK


Film review: Rogue Trader

Ewan McGregor: In over his head as Nick Leeson in Rogue Trader

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Anna Friel
Director/Screenwriter: James Deardon
Time: 1hr, 32 mins
Certificate 15 (UK)

By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

As infamous bank trader Nick Leeson prepares for release from his Singapore cell, Rogue Trader - the film version of his crashing demise - also comes out.

But if Leeson regrets single-handedly bringing down the 200 year-old Barings Bank, he could feel worse about selling his story of how it happened.

[ image: Tension rises on the trading room floor]
Tension rises on the trading room floor
Nick Leeson, as the tale goes, was the man who had everything - intelligence, charm, dream wife and job - and spectacularly lost it.

Unfortunately, Rogue Trader fares little better.

It under-exploits the ability of class A actors - Ewan McGregor and Anna Friel. It also makes poor viewing of a potentially gripping and illuminating drama, disappointing the ready-made attention of an audience eager to learn more.

Notoriety came winging Nick Leeson's way in 1995 when he lost countless millions of his employer's, (Barings Bank) money on the Far Eastern financial markets.

Barings, an institution in the City of London, was lost without redemption. Leeson was summarily dispatched to jail.

If the story Rogue Trader tells - based on Leeson's book - is to believed none of the catastrophe was really his fault.

A Watford barrow-boy made good, Leeson was the victim of his own eagerness to prove himself in a world traditionally only accessible to Oxbridge graduates.

[ image: Anna Friel as Lisa Leeson offers comfort to her doomed husband]
Anna Friel as Lisa Leeson offers comfort to her doomed husband
The subsequent massive losses he incurs, and conceals, are not only made to look easy but inevitable, as the inept Barings management ignore the alarm bells rung by their funds manager in favour of the pumped up profits golden boy Leeson is seemingly raking in.

The message is hammered home by Leeson's (McGregor's) continuous narrative of what's going on.

And maybe the audience would be better convinced by his story if it was backed it up by developed characterisation of the rest of the cast.

As it stands, you learn little of the Barings bosses, except that, in Leeson's eyes, they are the stereotypical cigar puffing, cognac swilling fools.

Anna Friel, Leeson's wife Lisa, comes across as painfully naive, as she ambles along besotted by her brilliant husband, dishing up TLC when he comes home in an agitated state.

And the film's attempts to explain the intricacies of the futures market makes the action slow, although leaving you feeling none the wiser.

But to give credit where it's due, there are moments of seat-gripping excitement as the action lunges towards disaster.

[ image: End of the road for Nick Leeson]
End of the road for Nick Leeson
The ringing of unanswered phones reaches fever pitch. Sweat pours as the figures go through the roof.

And a beguiling performance by McGregor does much to win over hearts and minds.

But all in all, Rogue Trader could leave you feeling confusingly sorry and irritated with everyone involved.

And there is the sneaking feeling, as the credits role, that the story might have been better served if confined to a 45-minute TV film.

Rogue Trader goes on general release in the UK from 25 June. Nick Leeson is expected to be released early in July.

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