‘Bitconned’ Review: A Brilliant Documentary Film On A Bunch Of Bratty Men Exploring The Cryptocurrency Buzz

There are not many documentaries, shows, or films that explore the bubble created by Bitcoin or cryptocurrency. There is still a lot of ambiguity about how it works or how people work around it because of the nature of the product and there being zero regulations to control the movement of the said entity, which exists only in digital form. Bryan Storkel’s Bitconned is a wordplay on the name of the first big crypto and is a documentary film on the firm Centra Tech that had plans to diversify their product-based company surrounding the cryptocurrency and an ambitious plan to be a virtual banking system based only on the digital form of currency.

Bitconned documentary right from the beginning jumps into understanding who Ray (Raymond) Trapani is and his vast interest in committing crimes, or, as he stated, wanting to become a “criminal.” Ray Trapani comes from a family of criminals, as his maternal grandfather was a known mafia kingpin based in Miami, basking on the glory and power of his grandfather William Hagner. Ray began his career as the owner of a car rental company that leased luxurious cars to rich clients and made a decent profit. Miami Exotics made a profit initially but soon the company was drowning in deficits as there was more spending than money coming in. The slowing down of their rental business led Ray and Sam ‘Sorbee,’ who went from foes to friends, to venture into these uncharted territories of cryptocurrency and begin to monetize on it as they planned to expand and provide a credit card for cryptocurrency. The name of the company was Centra Tech, and a line of products they were willing to offer based on this new form of currency included a crypto exchange and a digital wallet. Everything about Centra Tech seemed too good to be true when Nathaniel Popper, a New York Times journalist, investigated the company and the bogus nature of their offerings and products and questioned the authenticity of the company and why they were making big claims.

There is a lot to take away from a moral standpoint after viewing this one-hour, 34-minute documentary that details the life of Ray Trapani and his associates, with whom he started this company and believed he would be doing something extraordinary. Essentially, these young men were scamming people and were willing to go to any extent to make extra money and understand this new form of money utilization. The company went ahead and hired a seed investor, Michael Edwards, built a website on the stolen content of a Singapore-based blockchain company, and began selling the idea of how cryptocurrency is not just safe, but the future of the digital world.

Writers Weston Currie and Jonathan Ignatius Green bring to the forefront a story for a generation of rich young men who seem to have no aim in life but to make a quick buck. Ray Trapani comes from a family of not just influence but generational wealth as well. The writers project his friends and associates as a mirror image of him, who earns money the easy way and is willing to take any steps to make it big. The word ‘privilege’ is lost in translation. There is no sense in acknowledging the fact that these young men may not have a lot to lose if the company falls. Ryan’s grandfather was more than willing to invest in his business without understanding whether the man was capable enough or not.

The writing and the direction also highlight how it would be high time the digital currency had a regulation body that could control the influx of money through these entities. Bryan Storkel is willing to paint Ray as a businessman who claims to have offered the reins of the company to Sam ‘Sorbee’ and put all the blame on him for the debacle, which was followed by arrests that ended their company’s stint. The direction by Bryan is excellent because he chose to offer a balanced take on the entire scam. Ray is given the chance to retell the story from his perspective, but other experts, such as lawyers and journalists, offer insight and proof on why Centra Tech could very well be a scam, because the business model of the company lacks clarity. A lot of the footage of Sorbee is available only where he speaks to the public directly through videos posted on social media pages. Sorbee seems to have mugged up a lot of jargon to convince people and certain industry gurus on the subject that Centra Tech was not a scam but believed in offering people a service. Centra Tech went from being conceptualized in a small room to a big office space, which is a decent rag-to-riches story. Except there is no one poor here, there was only a need and greed to make more money through illegal means.

Partly, the problem of the show is the glorification of the crime committed by these bunch of men who are cocky and arrogant. The fact that Ray Trapani was given a chance to talk about Centra Tech when he openly admitted having committed crimes and had a penchant for it. A documentary is required to understand the psyche of the person who is the subject, but offering a platform to justify their actions is a big no. This could be equivalent to Martin Scorsese presenting the story of Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, which glamorizes the life the man led while fooling and scamming many of his customers. The movie might have been commercially successful, but it forgot to add any redemption arc regarding the man who is still relevant in the stock market arena and sold a million books on the subject he thinks he knows best. Ray Trapani seems to have taken the same trajectory by offering to cooperate with the SEC and FBI to make sure he was not given jail time.

Centra Tech’s fraud included using the photograph of a professor based in Manitoba, Canada, and using his image to project him as the seed investor Michael Edwards, which was not even his real name. The director and the writer also managed to make Ray, Sorbee, and Robert look like a bunch of amateurs who never had any clear answers to direct questions being asked about the company. These men refused to acknowledge the privilege they were born into. The director and the writers made sure to present this aspect to paint a picture of how rich kids born with a silver spoon in their mouths operate.

Since many know the outcome of the trial, the verdict reeks of corruption and bribery, which is implied by as many experts as possible in the documentary, who seem to have been appalled by Ray Trapani getting away with zero jail time. The editing is simple, as the message of the documentary is straightforward with few deviations. The entire story of the documentary seemed more about Ray Trapani and not about the rest of the people who ran the company with him. Overall, Bitconned is a good watch solely because it manages to locate the bunch of bratty men who pulled off a scam which was based on a buzz.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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Overall, Bitconned is a good watch solely because it manages to locate the bunch of bratty men who pulled off a scam which was based on a buzz.'Bitconned' Review: A Brilliant Documentary Film On A Bunch Of Bratty Men Exploring The Cryptocurrency Buzz