Sponsor

New Release Review - THE BIG SHORT

A group of individuals profit from the 2008 global economic crash.



Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Adam McKay

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Marisa Tomei, Rafe Spall, Melissa Leo, Karen Gillan



McKay's protagonists mostly come off as characters that failed to make the final cut of one of his comedies, all fake tans and comedy haircuts that belong in 1988 rather than 2008. It's difficult to invest in his subprime drama.



Have you ever heard of an undertaker going out of business? For every tragedy, there's somebody who has figured out a way to benefit from the misery of others. Adam McKay's (Anchorman, Step Brothers, The Other Guys) first foray into 'serious' drama introduces us to a selection of the many individuals who made a financial killing from the 2008 housing market collapse.
First up, there's hedge fund manager Michael Burry (a glass-eyed Christian Bale, like Peter Falk playing Patrick Bateman), who bets millions against the assumed stability of the housing market. When others hear of Burry's actions, a domino effect occurs, with trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) and hedge fund manager Mark Baum (Steve Carell) teaming up to take a gamble themselves. Working with retired banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), a pair of young wannabe hotshot investors (John Magaro, Finn Wittrock) initially involve themselves in the scheme before realising the severity of what's about to occur, alerting a disinterested media.
Possibly because nobody wants to be reminded of their bad decisions, few movies have addressed the housing market collapse, unless you count the many haunted house movies that uncoincidentally appeared in its immediate aftermath. Ramin Bahrani's 99 Homes made a good stab at examining the effects on the victims on the ground, while JC Chandor's calling card, Margin Call, offered a look at how those in the glass towers coped with the realisation their industry was about to imminently collapse. McKay attempts to show us the other side of the coin here, but it's difficult to invest in his subprime drama.
It doesn't help that McKay indulges in such an over the top, sub Oliver Stone style of filmmaking. The film attempts to lecture us on the intricacies of its dirty business, with celebrities cameoing as themselves to offer metaphors that might help us gain a better understanding of the ways of high finance instead of just allowing us to assume its characters know what they're talking about. Other times its players break the fourth wall to ensure we haven't fallen asleep, a strong possibility given how unengaging the drama is here. McKay's comedies are packed with sight gags, so the absence of visual storytelling and the film's reliance on expository dialogue is disappointing.
McKay's protagonists mostly come off as characters that failed to make the final cut of one of his comedies, all fake tans and comedy haircuts that belong in 1988 rather than 2008. Carell is a dialled down version of his borderline offensive Freeheld character, while Bale and Gosling are impossible to take seriously thanks to their ridiculous character ticks. Pitt seems to be in a different movie; he's in serious mode, and you can tell this because he sports a beard and glasses.
I'm clearly in the minority in disliking this film, as it's been embraced by audiences and critics, even garnering a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Having said that, an awful lot of people once believed the housing market was safe.
Help support The Movie Waffler by sharing this post




discussion by