Big Short, The (2015)

Review #1,257

Director:  Adam McKay
Cast:  Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt 
Plot:  Four denizens of the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.

Genre:  Biography / Drama / Comedy
Awards:  Won 1 Oscar - Best Adapted Screenplay.  Nom. for 4 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing.
Runtime:  130min
Rating:  NC16 (cut) for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity.
Distributor:  United International Pictures

“Saints don't live on Park Avenue.”

I try to avoid bad movies, but this is a very rare instance that a film so highly regarded, not to mention a Best Picture Oscar nominee, nearly put me to sleep.  A vastly overrated drama-comedy on the devastating financial collapse of 2008 and the men who predicted it, The Big Short turns a serious issue into a farcical study on Man's stupidity, or more accurately, on the Thinking Man's stupidity, particularly of such shrewd people as lawmakers, bankers and financial heads. 

Well, that is okay, and as far as the layman is concerned, it is scrutiny well-deserved.  But when the movie is done in a gimmicky, attention-seeking way, it might just be better to look the other way.  The Big Short turned me off because of that, and for many more reasons. 

Director Adam McKay, who made such movies as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), gives us a whirlwind of visual information, suggestive images and a lot of dialogue.  It is no wonder that the film has been nominated for Best Film Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay – but whether the craft (or gimmick) is effective is left for audiences to decide. 

The movie feels repetitive, hammering home the message that there are many, many stupid people in the world, not just the smart, fraudulent ones, but the gullible, honest ones.  The condescending tone and flashy style of filmmaking might be entertaining to some, but for me, the movie falls flat on its face. 

It never dazzles, unlike the film The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), which similarly explores the theme of greed and terrible foresight, but in exhilarating ways.  Despite the commendable effort to put visual and sound together in interesting ways, the result is a labourious movie to watch. 

Steve Carrell gives the best performance of the quartet, not surprisingly because his character is the most well-developed of the lot.  Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling don’t offer much and are largely forgettable, while Christian Bale turns in a physical performance that promises much, but his character fails to compel. 

The Big Short also contains a whole load of finance-related jargon, which will alienate those not familiar with the associated terms – the worst part is that the movie amplifies the confusion by getting famous people to explain them to us with their own analogies. 

Well, let me offer my analogy: remember back when you were still a student, and everyone had to present a topic in front of the class?  Well, there was always one ostentatious student who would create a slide-show with lots of pretentious effects and transitions, but whatever that came out of his or her presentation was a muddled piece of crap.  I think Adam McKay can be proud to be that poster boy.

Verdict:  A condescending and gimmicky mess that feels repetitive and labourious to watch, not to mention it tries too hard to entertain but falls flat on its face.


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