Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Critics Consensus

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail transcends its less-than-dramatic trappings to present a gripping real-life legal thriller with far-reaching implications.

93%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 69

84%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 976
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Movie Info

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail tells the incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Abacus becomes the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The indictment and subsequent trial forces the Sung family to defend themselves--and their bank's legacy in the Chinatown community--over the course of a five-year legal battle.

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Critic Reviews for Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

All Critics (69) | Top Critics (19)

  • The personalities make the picture, and James' camera presence is such that "Abacus" never seems to gin up or theatricalize anyone's thoughts or behavior.

    Jan 25, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • "Abacus" is probably the only film made in the past decade that could get an audience rooting for a bank, but it does just that.

    Jul 21, 2017 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • When Steve James's documentary suggests that Abacus was the victim of a concerted Establishment plot... it doesn't have quite enough evidence for a conviction, but it is an absorbing study of the court case, the bank and Chinatown itself.

    Jul 11, 2017 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • A sweet and sometimes moving, if ultimately minor, film about a hopelessly inadequate fraud case from 2012.

    Jul 11, 2017 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Kevin Maher

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • Yet again, it is a story of the fat cats and the thin cats - and a reminder of how Milton Friedman's maxim applies to the bank bailouts: socialism for the rich, free enterprise for the poor.

    Jul 6, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Using drawings and courtroom testimony, James creates a tense courtroom drama out of seemingly dry material.

    Jun 22, 2017 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

  • Dec 05, 2018
    A really good example of how to make a cohesive documentary that touches on so many aspects of a legal case and yet never loses its focus or feels superficial, becoming even quite touching and tense as we realize what is at stake for this family who needs to prove their innocence.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 11, 2018
    The most interesting thing here is the way the narrative frames the fallout from the '08 Financial Crisis. The public and the Government's thirst for vengeance coupled with an unwillingness to go after those who were really responsible meant that somebody had to be offered as a sacrifice . . . And Steve James isn't afraid to explore the obvious racism in the targeting of the Sung family.
    Alec B Super Reviewer

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