‘The Big Short’ Wastes an Amazing Cast

The_Big_Short_teaser_posterWell…this is a bit depressing.

“The Big Short” follows four stock traders (Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt) who successfully predicted the housing bubble crisis of 2007 and bet against the banks. Adam McKay directs and co-writes.

I was looking forward to this movie because I loved the cast and it looked like it could be almost a spin-off to “Wolf of Wall Street.” And while the actors do their best and there are brief, fleeting flashes of energy, the movie is bogged down by overly complicated terms and an overall sense of emptiness.

The thing that films like “Wolf of Wall Street” or “Wall Street” do well was break everything about the overly complicated world of stock trading and market terminology, and then made sure to use that lingo as little as possible as to not alienate its audience. “Big Short” takes the time to try and explain what something like a collateralized debt obligation or subprime mortgage is, but then the characters continue to rant on about a dozen other terms that just go over your head. In the film they say Wall Street likes to use fancy words so “people will think only they can do what they do or better yet just leave them alone;” the film ironically becomes the embodiment of the people they’re vilifying.

To their credit the cast tries their best, with Carell and Bale standing out the most. Carell’s Mark Baum is a cynic who constantly thinks every person in the world has an angle (which he may not be wrong), while Bale plays Michael Burry who you sympathize with because he knows he is right about the impending crash but literally every single person around him berates him and even threatens to sue.

However the cast is one of my gripes with the film, in that they aren’t together as unit. Bale has his own story, Carell and Gosling have theirs, and meanwhile Brad Pitt is merely an extended cameo, helping two different characters get their foot in the door of Wall Street. It would have been amazing to see this many actors share screen time, but alas, the only time that happens is when they happen to go to the same conference in Las Vegas. The editing jumps around awkwardly, and McKay inserts random clips and photos to try and act as metaphors, but it just is pretentious or pointless.

Throughout all of “The Big Short” I kept hoping it would get better. I really did. But I also kept wondering what the point of all this was? We all know the banks got greedy and the government bailed them out and that the only people that suffered were working Americans. We don’t need a movie to reiterate this. And it isn’t even like we get to see the outcome of Carell and company betting against the banks and then getting to spend all the money they earned through risk; the film ends with the crash and really, honestly, truthfully, what is the point of this movie?

Adam McKay should get a pat on the back for wanting to write/direct something other than Will Ferrell comedies, but sometimes you really have to live life by the “if it ain’t broke” mentality (which, to be fair, how we got into the 2008 recession). Bale and Carell give two emotional performances, and the film does make a few points about how society works (we care more about baseball and rap music than who is handling our money) but given all the talent in front and behind the camera, this should have been a lot, lot better.

Critics Rating: 4/10

big short
Paramount Pictures

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