- "One can never have too much power. If my life has a meaning, that's the meaning."
- ―Max Shreck[src]
Maximillian "Max" Shreck was a powerful, ruthless business mogul who served as Selina Kyle's boss and the Penguin's ally. He was also the mobs secret financier. He sought to build a power plant in order to bring Gotham City to its knees. Shreck also was the owner of the department store, Shreck's.
After the death of the Cobblepots, all of their money was split into two: half was given to the Shreck family. The other given to the Wayne family.
Shreck had been the mobs secret financier from 1919-1939.
Schreck's "Power Plant"
After the death of the Joker and losing 20 million dollars of his money to the people of Gotham, Max Shreck's goal was to build a supposed "Power Plant" for Gotham City's future. Standing in Shreck's way, however, is Mayor Roscoe Jenkins, who believes such a Power Plant to be unnecessary. Bruce Wayne is also unconvinced of the need for a new plant, and opposes Shreck's plans.
Meeting the Penguin
Later on while Shreck is giving the town a speech, a group of clown-like criminals known as the Red Triangle Gang attack the city and demand Shreck. Chip valiantly defends his father long enough for Shreck to escape, although Shreck is caught in a trap and he falls into the sewer, where he sees the same gang and meets their enigmatic leader: a mysterious penguin-like creature, about whom unbelieved rumours had been spreading. The Penguin demands Shreck help him make his way to the surface in a positive light, and when Shreck at first refuses, the Penguin blackmails him with incriminating evidence of Shreck's past crimes (the Penguin had been studying Shreck for a while in preparation for this). On the condition that the Pengiun help him out as well, Shreck agrees.
Shreck's True Plan
Shreck then returns to his office, where he finds his timid and shy secretary, Selina Kyle, doing a last-minute check-up for his meeting the next day with Bruce Wayne about the Power Plant. Kyle accidentally reveals that she has found out the true nature about the Power Plant, that it will siphon off power from the Gotham electrical grid and give the Shreck family a hugely profitable energy monopoly. Shreck, fearing that Kyle might let it slip, and refusing to risk what he considers his legacy to his son Chip, pushes her through a window to her death. Unknown to him, however, she survives the fall, and takes up the mantle of Catwoman.
Cobblepot for Mayor
The next day, during a speech, Mayor Hill's baby son is kidnapped by a Red Triangle Circus member, who flees into the sewer, where he is "attacked" by the Penguin, who "rescues" Jenkins's son and brings him to the surface, becoming a public hero. Shreck witnesses this, and demands the Penguin be granted access into the Hall of Records to search for his parents' names, in the process learning his human name: Oswald Cobblepot. The same day, Shreck meets with Bruce Wayne in his office, who also opposes the idea of the Power Plant and points out that Cobblepot is the leader of the Red Triangle Gang. Shreck denies this, however, and they are then visited by a heavily plastered but "amnesia-suffering" Selina, who displays a more confident attitude and even impresses Shreck, who vows to kill her only if she tries to blackmail him.
Shreck then reveals his plan: to recall the elections by using the Red Triangle Gang's attacks and set up Cobblepot as a candidate for Mayor of Gotham, who will approve of the Power Plant. Meanwhile, Selina, as Catwoman, starts her own revenge crusade against Shreck and blows up an entire floor of his department store.
Later, however, Shreck's plans to make Cobblepot the new Mayor are ruined when Bruce Wayne, from the Batcave, jams the microphones during Cobblepot's speech and plays some rantings Cobblepot had made towards the city while controlling the Batmobile with Batman inside it. Cobblepot's true personality and his schemes are uncovered, and he loses his popularity and is forced to return to the sewer, especially after Shreck abandons him.
Crashing of the Maxquerade Ball
At Shreck's annual "Maxquerade Ball", the Penguin crashes through and informs the party that his goons are targeting their first-born sons to murder in the sewer (in an act of revenge for what his parents did to him). His intention is to take Chip Shreck and kill him, but Shreck, in his first and only noble act, begs that he be taken instead, on the basis that it was he, and not Chip, who manipulated and betrayed him. The Penguin accepts, and takes Shreck prisoner, holding him in a cage above a deadly vat of toxic waste, into which he plans to dump Shreck along with the first born sons.
When Batman intervenes and tricks the Penguin into firing missiles at Gotham Zoo (under which lies the Penguin's hideout), Shreck manages to escape from the cage, only to be ambushed by Catwoman, who is determined to kill him there and then. Batman arrives, and Shreck attempts to bribe him, only for Batman to push him back and tell him of his impending incarceration. When Batman, however, removes his mask and reveals himself as Bruce Wayne, Shreck takes out a gun and shoots Batman, unaware that he is wearing body armor. Selina was somehow able to continue after him despite being shot in her thigh and shoulder. Shreck looked at the gun in disbelief, shots fired at close range inexplicably missed her torso. As he stared in awe she leans in for kiss, pulling a transformer cable on the generator. Just before it exploded she put the stun gun on Shreck's face as she kissed him goodbye. After the explosion Batman found that it had reduced him to nothing but a scorched, skeletal corpse.
Presambly his son Chip is now in control of the Shreck businesses.
Behind the scenes
- Reportedly, the writers of Batman Returns have stated that the first draft of the script intended Shreck to be District Attorney Harvey Dent (portrayed by Billy Dee Williams in the first film), who would merely have been scarred by the electrocution at the film's climax and transformed into the supervillain Two-Face, driving him insane and prompting him to go after Catwoman in revenge in the third film. In another draft of the script, Max Shreck was the "golden boy" of the Cobblepot family, whereas Penguin was the deformed outsider. It turned out that Shreck would be the Penguin's long-lost brother.
- Shreck was a character created exclusively for the movie, absent from the comics. The character is inspired by the actor Max Schreck, who famously portrayed Count Orlok in the silent film Nosferatu. 
- Interestingly enough, Max Shreck was originally intended to feature as a villain in Batman: The Animated Series, but his inclusion was scrapped and the character of Roland Daggett was created instead.