Sunday, December 13, 2015


The Big Short
Film Review by Kam Williams

Adaptation of Michael Lewis Best Seller Chronicles Financial Collapse of 2008

Michael Lewis' The Big Short was an eye-opening best seller chronicling the machinations on the part of a quartet of Wall Street contrarians (played by Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt) who accurately forecast the global financial crisis of 2008. The four made a mint by investing in Credit Default Swaps (CDS) in anticipation of the collapse of the market in Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO). 
In layman's terms, these proverbial smartest guys in the room basically bet that the real estate bubble would burst, because of the easy money being lent unqualified borrowers via subprime mortgages. The banks didn't mind making so-called NINJA loans (No Income/No Job) since they would quickly sell the worthless instrument to unsuspecting investors just about as soon as the deals were completed. 
Despite a plethora of decent performances, the screen version of The Big Short fails to do justice to the source material. The movie marks Adam McKay's first foray into dramatic fare. The veteran writer/director has enjoyed quite a career in comedy, which is reflected in a resume that includes Anchorman (2004), Talladega Nights (2006), Step Brothers (2008) and The Other Guys (2010), The Campaign (2012), Anchorman 2 (2013) and Get Hard (2015). 
The film suffers from a few glaring flaws. The first is the fact that the names of all the key players have been changed. Since this is based on a true story, resorting to fictional characters serves to lessen the intensity of a tale that could've been quite compelling. 
The movie is further trivialized by a failure to commit fully to drama, a no-no, given the serious subject matter. After all, no one has been held responsible for the crash, leaving much of the country still miffed about the billion dollar bailout of Wall Street at the expense of Main Street. 
Equally annoying are several celebrity cameos by the likes of chef Anthony Bourdain, Aussie actress Margot Robbie and pop diva Selena Gomez. During distracting, fourth-wall breaking appearances, they face the camera to explain the meaning of derivatives and other arcane financial instruments. McKay ostensibly included these interludes to make his jargon-laden script more accessible. 
A disappointingly dry lecture in finance strictly with egghead appeal that manages to squander the services of an A-list cast composed of Academy Award-winners (Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale) and nominees (Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell).

Fair (1.5 stars)
Rated R for nudity, sexuality and pervasive profanity
Running time: 130 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

To see a trailer for The Big Short, visit:

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