Blackberry is a good flick about the evil that is capitalism but not as good as Wall Street and the Wolf of Wall Street, and the lead actors, though they deliver, are definitely not in the class of Michael Douglas and Leonardo DiCaprio (though Glenn Howerton, as the evil marketing man, is competitive in the over-the-top category).

It’s the brilliant techie/super-aggressive marketer partnership story, but instead of the expected denouement of a partnership that unravels, the two go down together.

Indeed, in real life, Blackberry was the anti-thesis of Apple. In Apple, Steve Jobs, the brilliant techie, was ousted by marketing genius John Scully, but got his corporation back in the end to lead it to greater heights. In the Blackberry story, at least as told in the film, the techie, Mike Lazaridis (played by Jay Baruchel) loses his bearings under the evil guidance of the take-no-prisoners marketing hustler Jim Balsillie and gets absorbed into the capitalist mindset and capitalist ethics.

Apple, in fact, plays a central role in the film and in real life, because it was the iPhone’s onscreen keyboard that killed Blackberry, an innovation that completely blindsided the latter. There is another actor central to Blackberry’s demise, but it only makes a cameo appearance in the film: China. Jobs and his successor Tim Cook realized that Apple’s bottom line depended on manufacturing the iPhone in China, and they made China the center of the iPhone global value chain. Indeed, Apple became the paradigmatic TNC in the era of neoliberal globalization. It set up assembly operations via subcontractors in low-wage China and subsidiaries in low-tax countries like Ireland.

Production in a special economic zone in China allowed Apple subcontractor Foxconn to import components without paying Chinese tariffs. Even more important, as economic analysts Matthew Klein and Michael Pettis write, “the special economic zone let Apple buy the finished phones from Foxconn before they have technically entered China, sell those phones to subsidiaries based in corporate tax havens such as Ireland, and then let those subsidiaries sell the iPhones to the rest of the world after adding its hefty profit margin.” This carefully constructed “value chain” allows Apple “to book the bulk of its profits in countries where it pays the least tax even though the phones are shipped from Chinese ports.”

In contrast, Blackberry founder and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis resisted moving production to China and creating a similar global value chain until it was too late, though it is not clear from the film why. Indeed, the Apple/Blackberry competition became an allegory for the dependence on super-cheap Chinese labor of western industry, the deindustrialization of western economies, and the super-industrialization of China. You had to move your manufacturing operations to China to survive, which is the flashing insight in the dark that good, old Deng Xiao Ping grabbed and passed on to his successors in the Chinese Communist Party.

There is another message lurking in the film. The law of competition, as Marx pointed out, does not disappear even as capital becomes more and concentrated. Industry giants cannot escape its dynamics. Blackberry, which in the late 2000’s controlled 45 per cent of the smart phone market and enjoyed celebrity endorsement from Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, was undone by savage competition, as was the gigantic GM, earlier, in the automobile industry. In finance, competition among the giants led to the 2008 financial crisis, and only the US government’s stepping in to save them enabled the Citi, Goldman Sachs, and other biggies to survive. Big Tech, like Apple, Google, and Facebook know they could face the same fate, which is why they are constantly in a frenzy to consolidate, expand, take over or kill the competition, consolidate, etc. As they say, there’s no rest for the wicked.

But back to the film, these comments are not a spoiler since the film has been marketed as a capitalist morality play, and besides, the world already knows what happened to Blackberry: its current share of the smartphone market is zero.