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Maxed Out

132 customer reviews

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(Jun 05, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The deeply ingrained American culture of buy now, pay later" is exposed in its seamy reality in this journey into the workings of modern financing and who they consider as their preferred customers." Getting rich while keeping the poor ever more indebted is the way it works in this portrait of a national nightmare that is both funny and infuriating. 2006/color/87 min/NR.

In Maxed Out, author/director James D. Scurlock (Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders) takes on America's debt crisis. Consequently, he touches on related issues like race, corporate malfeasance, and political subterfuge. Scurlock’s multi-media approach incorporates statistics, news excerpts, and interviews, but it's rarely dull (comedy bits from Louis CK and tunes from Queen and Coldplay don't hurt). Speakers include economic professors, debt collectors, pawn brokers, investigative reporters, beleaguered consumers, and even Robin Leach (Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous). Instead of New York and Los Angeles, he concentrates on mid-size cities, like Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, and Seattle. Plenty of small towns also come into play. Though he never presses the point himself, Scurlock allows his subjects to note the similarities between the credit industry and the drug trade (others use such incendiary terms as "rape"). One thing he neglects to mention, however, is pride. If house payments are ruining your life, selling that property may be the only solution. In most cases, however, it's hard not to feel for those individuals who didn't know what they were getting into before they signed their lives away. For some viewers, this will be a dispiriting documentary--three subjects recount the suicides of relatives who found their debt too much to bear--but in explaining exactly how lenders and creditors make money, Maxed Out can help others to avoid some of their most egregious practices. In other words, debt may be a downer, but knowledge is power. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Beth Naef, Mike Hudson, Louis C.K., Catherine Brown, John Brown
  • Directors: James D. Scurlock
  • Writers: James D. Scurlock
  • Producers: James D. Scurlock, Alexis Spraic, Lee Thompson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Magnolia
  • DVD Release Date: June 5, 2007
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000OU081M
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,273 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Maxed Out" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Matthew G. Sherwin HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 3, 2007
Format: DVD
The best things in life are free
But you can keep 'em for the birds and bees
Now give me money (that's what I want)
That's what I want (that's what I want)
That's what I want (that's what I want), yeah
That's what I want

Your lovin' gives me a thrill
But your lovin' don't pay my bills
Now give me money (that's what I want)
That's what I want (that's what I want)
That's what I want (that's what I want), yeah
That's what I want

Money don't get everything it's true,
What it don't get I can't use;
Now give me money (that's what I want)
That's what I want (that's what I want)
That's what I want (that's what I want), yeah
That's what I want

People want money. The credit card moguls prey on consumers who don't read the fine print before they sign their lives away; elected government officials including presidents "borrow" money from Social Security; and the average person wants an endless income. As my grandfather used to say, "Rich or poor, it's good to have money."

Maxed Out is an excellent documentary that, although somewhat disjointed, does do a very good job of exploring and explaining to people--in plain English--the risks of too much debt and the responsibilities they must face when it comes time to pay back that debt. We get fascinating interviews with unsuspecting, everyday people who unknowingly were fooled by creditors to become saddled with more debt than they could handle. We also see examples of families shattered when a member of the family actually kills themselves rather than face the shame of debt or bankruptcy. In addition, look for some excellent insights from Elizabeth Warren from Harvard University and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.
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94 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Edwin C. Pauzer VINE VOICE on March 24, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The woman looks out at the camera while showing the audience her new home in the making. She tells us how the bank guaranteed her mortgage based on the projected increased value of the house from its original price, after completion. We are told this is the exact same accounting procedure that Enron used.

There are some facts that this DVD makes clear. America, once a country where people were forced to live within their means has become a nation of debtors. Our indebtedness has been encouraged and even exploited by politicians, and credit card companies who tell us they are everywhere we want to be. With the complicity of congress, credit card companies are sapping the financial vitality of the American family.

Almost all politicians have told us that we should continue to consume. If it isn't Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger telling us from the front of an auto dealership that we need a new car, it's George W. Bush who told us after 9/11, to hell with sacrifices--just buy (and get into more debt).

In the 1980's President Ronald Reagan encouraged deregulation. Banks, once unable to operate in other states or float credit cards could now do so. Knowing that we could have something now instead of later was tempting for too many people. As the DVD reveals, the banks found a master marketer who suggested that they have zero percent interest "come-ons."

Then, there was targeting the right population. College kids were especially targeted with free Frisbees, school tee shirts, or any other gimmick that was given just for filling out an application. Calculated in this decision was to lure kids with future income potential and limited current income to make them debtors for life.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Kyle Tolle on June 9, 2007
Format: DVD
`Maxed Out' is an informative although disjointed look at personal and national debt in America. There is a decent amount of interviews given by not only regular victims of credit card debt but also from individuals who are educated in this subject such as consumer advocates and financial experts. A bit more organization in the presentation of material would have been better.

Looking past the shortcomings listed above and concentrating solely on the subject of debt, this program reveals some alarming trends by credit card companies, the government, and corporations that want to part you from your money using whatever means they feel are good for them but not good for you.

Whether it is credit lenders trying to exploit college students or companies trying to induce recent bankruptcy filers to again mire themselves in financial trouble, this is just another day at the office for them, business as usual. When it comes to ethics and professional behavior, it really isn't a big consideration in day to day affairs for some credit card companies and banks. As far as collecting on what you owe them, it is commonplace to experience rude and intimidating behavior from some debt collectors. When it comes to gathering information about a person's credit history and buying practices, there is evidence of data manipulation and disregarding people's rights to privacy in financial affairs.

When looking at numbers too, these don't paint a very pretty picture. Over 4 billion credit card offers a year are sent to the public. Credit card fees have risen 160 percent over the last 5 years. Between 1994 and 2004, over 10 million Americans filed for bankruptcy.
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