What Happened To Larry Hillblom, Billionaire And founder Of DHL?November 16, 2011
On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand and from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: BILLIONAIRE (Gravitas).
Larry Hillblom, billionaire and founder of DHL, dies in plane crash off his Micronesian island home, and dozens of would be heirs seek to lay claim to his billions.
By Sidney Falco
We’ve all been in the supermarket, glancing at the tabloids and wondering if perhaps, some odd story is remotely true. One of these stories that could have been ripped from the tabloids, yet is true, is the death Larry Hillblom, one of the Founders of DHL. Hillblom died in 1995 in a plane crash off the Micronesian Islands in the Pacific Ocean, near his home, on the island of Saipan. His body was lost at sea and his death was a mystery to some residents of Saipan. That is the simple part of the story. As Journalist Peter Manso (who covered what transpired after Hillblom’s death) says in the film, “That’s where the trouble starts.” After he died, dozens of would be heirs came forward to lay claim to Hillblom’s fortune.
BILLIONAIRE, directed by Alexis Spraic, is a fascinating story of a Man and his Fortune – I can see why the filmmaker was attracted to such material. Truth is stranger than fiction and this cliché proves true this time around. The film is part documentary, part mystery, and all entertaining. The mystery aspect centers mostly on whether or not a 10-year-old Filipino boy named Larry Jr. is the son of Larry Hillblom. Without getting too deep into the narrative (and some of the various legal complexities), all the elements are there for a ripe Hollywood drama: rich, greedy corporate men taking advantage of the poor; a local, small time Lawyer taking on a big corporation; tampering and destroying of DNA evidence; illicit and questionable sex, all for none other than a few billion dollars.
“Did Larry father Larry Jr.? Why was his Will never updated? And why did he have such an affinity for female virgin prostitutes? Some of those questions, and many others, you will get answers to while watching BILLIONAIRE, but the question I asked myself after the film was over was, who was the real Larry Hillblom? Frankly, you don’t know and I do not think the filmmakers know either. While a truly fascinating story, there is very little humanity in the Larry Hillblom portrayed in BILLIONAIRE, especially once the film’s narrative veers towards the mystery aspect of whether or not he fathered a child (a simple internet search will give you your answer if you do not want to see the film).
Friends from his past and present, business associates and other island locals are interviewed about Larry, yet they offer no insight into the mystery man. The film seems to accept that Larry was an enigma (in the 60 minute version, there is not one clip or sound bite of Larry speaking), and concentrates mostly on the biological mystery (did Larry leave heirs?), as well as the David and Goliath Story of Larry Jr.'s lawyer, David Lujan, and his co-counsel, Barry Israel, fighting against the lawyers of Hillblom’s corporate estate. Lujan, a man with delicate features and seemingly soft spoken, is the true hero of the film, taking on the corporate fat cats with perseverance.
All humans have dark sides and secrets, some more disturbing than others. That is not what is shocking about Hillblom’s virgin obsessed sexual actions (he is quoted by a Madam, calling the virgin prostitutes, “Cherry Girls”). It makes sense: he was, as the film suggests, an outcast in the western culture he was brought up in – a financially successful man who had the need to dominate in private. The culture of the Pacific islands of Micronesia, the Philippines and that part of the world allowed Hillblom to exert his power and authority, like Colonel Kurtz, over the natives, the have-nots in his world. He is in many ways, just as guilty as the men who tried to swindle money from Larry, Jr. as well as the other children, after he died. At one point, someone in the film says: “If you took the sexual part out of Larry’s life he was a fascinating person.” I really want to believe that, and wished the film explored the “fascinating Larry Hillblom.”
BILLIONAIRE, as an On-Demand feature, will definitely entertain you, especially at home amidst thousands of bad reality-TV shows on cable, but there is potential for it to be much more that.
Sidney Falco is a writer who works in the New York City area. Sidney lives and breathes film and television, and will occasionally write about them when asked. Sidney has also worked at such companies as Miramax, Sundance Channel and Sy-Fy. This is Sidney’s first review for ODW.
Look for BILLIONAIRE (Gravitas) in your local cable movies on demand section.
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