Combustible Celluloid
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With: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Marisa Tomei, Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Adepero Oduye, Karen Gillan, Max Greenfield, Billy Magnussen, Melissa Leo, Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, Richard Thaler, Selena Gomez, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, Byron Mann
Written by: Adam McKay, Charles Randolph, based on a book by Michael Lewis
Directed by: Adam McKay
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 130
Date: 12/11/2015

The Big Short (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Big Bank Theory

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The documentary Inside Job tried to explain the 2008 financial crisis in a responsible way, and now, with The Big Short, writer/director Adam McKay attempts to do it with humor. His film focuses on some misfits in the financial world, all of whom discover, early, just what the banks were doing to us. Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is a stock trader who doesn't know how to handle people, but knows his way through a mortgage document. He discovers the way that banks have been making money by issuing subprime mortgages and foreclosing on them, and decides to bet against the housing market for big money. Then, douchebag banker Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling, who also narrates) and a hedge fund operator, Mark Baum (Steve Carell), jump on board. Finally, a pair of young, fresh-out-of-college investors Charles Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) enlist the aid of a former banker turned seed farmer (Brad Pitt), to help them reach the big time.

McKay handles the exceedingly complex information with a twitchy, jittery filming and editing style, with lots of yelling and foul language, and breaking the fourth wall. Occasionally someone like Margot Robbie or Selena Gomez appears in a cameo to explain a concept in simpler details. Great portions of it work, but even at hyper-speed, the movie still rolls out to 130 minutes, and can be headache-inducing -- especially given that there are no real winners in this horrifying scenario. The best part about The Big Short is that it may have the opportunity of reaching a wider audience than Inside Job or Margin Call did; the fact that, to this day, not one banker has been arrested for fleecing the American people, should be public knowledge -- and the subject of a public outcry.

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