Clawback is a financial term for when a benefactor takes back money that was disbursed, but with an added penalty. Asim, a former child refugee, discovers exactly what that penalty is on the night of a fundraising gala for his charity Third Pillar, that provides aid to other refugee children. Bradley, a legendary trader who took Asim under his wing as a protege many years ago, has been invited to the gala by wealthy philanthropist Donna, another former protege. Bradley takes them aside, along with another protege at the gala, Simon. Before he was arrested for insider trading, Bradley gave each of his three proteges different amounts of money in off-shore accounts to invest as they pleased. Just released from prison, Bradley is back to reap what his proteges have sown. Donna invested her money and Simon wasted his. But Bradley punishes Asim for spending his money on others who can give him nothing in return. Bradley releases evidence that Asim is guilty of tax evasion, and he is arrested by the police in front of all his guests, his reputation destroyed and his charity poised to collapse. Selfish behaviour is rewarded, whilst selfless behaviour is punished.
The version of The Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25:14-30 is one that has resonated with me since childhood, and I could never work out why until developing this pitch. It is a deceptively simple morality tale, but that simplicity allows it to be open to multiple interpretations that are complex and profound. There was no need to drastically alter the parable, apart from updating it to a contemporary setting and twisting the moral of the story. The master doesn’t give the three servants equal amounts of money, and his punishment of the servant who wasted the talent he was given is incredibly harsh. That sense of unfairness is faithfully translated in Clawback, and is easy to do so in a time where those in power seem less concerned with what benefits those in need than what will benefit them personally. The film does not judge or criticise, but simply reflects the moral code those in control see to live by. If many see money and capitalism as the new religion to live by, it seems fitting that a story about money from one of the oldest religious texts would help to examine what we have become.