Wal-Mart: High Cost Of Low Price is a comprehensive look at all of the wrong doings of corporate giant Wal-Mart. Through a series of interviews with people of all walks of life from former Mom & Pop competitors to Chinese factory workers, Robert Greenwald, the director, systematically removes the veil behind almost every area of a Wal-Mart representives’s speeches to shareholders and the press. In contrast to other doom and gloom documentaries of late such as the Zeitgeist series, this film manages to present often jaw-dropping facts and personal accounts without leaving the viewer felling overwhelmed and helpless. By the time the film concluded, I was left seriously regretting my days as a Wal-Mart customer when I lived in Tennessee which is something that I certainly didn’t expect to happen.
The film began quite predictably by telling the story of a family-owned hardware store that provided down-home customer service for decades but was then forced to close their doors when Wal-Mart came to town. As unfortunate of a story as that is, it’s one of the first things I think of when it comes to the evil that comes along with Wal-Mart, and as such made for a slow start to the movie. Later however, it delved into many areas that I previously had no idea of like the fact that they encouraged their employees to go on welfare and had extensive measures in place to prevent the formation of worker’s unions. One of the most surprising and upsetting things however is that in most cases, city governments would actually use taxpayer dollars to provide subsidies to Wal-Mart to open stores in their area, the grand total of which is apparently over one billion dollars. Other criticisms included health care, lack of overtime, environmental issues, customer safety, and an interesting portrait of the lives of two Chinese factory workers.
My main issue with High Cost Of Low Prices has nothing to do with it’s portrayal of Wal-Mart at all, but rather it’s shoddy editing. Throughout the film, simple audio editing mistakes such as having the music too loud during interviews, took me right out of the movie and got me thinking how low the budget must have been for this otherwise great documentary. The pinnacle of this poor editing came at the film’s closing where the screen exploded in an unintentionally hilarious Tim-and-Eric-esque mix of blaring gospel music, various town names, unintelligible audio from multiple local news stations at once, group photos of community activists against Wal-Mart, and the word “Victory” in a myriad of fonts flying all over the screen. The whole scene was made even more ridiculous of course when contrasted against learning about the perils of those affected by Wal-Mart of the past 95 minutes.
Despite the editing, Wal-Mart: High Cost Of Low Prices is still worth watching. The torrent is here.