Despite being marketed as a dramedy (get it?), ultimately the movie leaves the viewer, if he/she is on the same wavelength as your scribe, depressed. I have been blessed by the films I’ve already seen in this mint new year. Several have been truly excellent – but this is the one that has had the most impact. One fears for society if this is what is still occurring – and the afterword before the end credits assured us all that it is. Of course it is America at the helm – who else? We in Oz were protected by some savvy enactments from our lawmakers back then, bless them, as well as the soft landing that China provided. Now China is out of the equation, will Australia, too, be dragged down next time?
Unlike the odious lot in Scorsese’s magnificent ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, these guys didn’t get their kicks from a laid on lavish lifestyle of naked strippers, alcohol and drugs. These Wall Street warriors were more moderate in their private lives. Their adrenalin highs came from sober pursuits – those involved in making squillions. They’d do so, though, with nary a thought as to how their wheeler-dealerings affected anything else – whether that be the national economy or the countless mum and dad investors they were ruining in the process.
Director Adam McKay, best known previously for the silly delights of ‘The Anchorman’ franchise, has been nominated for an Oscar with this offering. ‘The Big Short’ will probably not win best movie category if the odds (albeit now shortening) are to be believed, but I will be chuffed if he brings home the bacon as best director. What McKay has dished up here is full of laughs – and I think that is the nub of why it works so well. We’re laughing at a terrible event. We’re laughing even though it can happen again. We’re laughing when we’re also informed that the US banking system has Washington so much by the short and curlies that nothing, in retrospect, has been put in place to prevent future system meltdown.
That there is much explanation of the financial procedures taking place on the screen has been criticised by some reviewers. Although I failed to understand much of it, for me it didn’t detract one iota, nor the methods used by the director to present such info.
Some of Hollywood’s best thespians were recruited for this project – Christian Bale (charmless and oozing body odour – you could almost smell him reek), Brad Pitt (rustic and reluctant until the crunch), Ryan Gosling (sleekly oiling out bad-ass vibes). All were sublimely good. Despite the vision of Margot Robbie in bubbles and sipping bubbly as she explained to us the finer points of shonky, but not illegal, financial practices these fellows indulged in, women didn’t figure strongly in ‘The Big Short’. Men ran the show, with none more initially ruthless than Steve Carell’s Mark Baum. For me his performance was the highlight. The Forty Year Old Virgin acted his socks off as the only one who developed any sort of a conscience over what he was about to do – but, in the end, even he hesitated only briefly. He knew the mayhem that was about to unfold, but as well the profits to be made when it did.
So what did these finance bods do? Well, between them they worked out that the ‘sub-prime’ business going on between the banks in the US was rotten to the core – so much so that it would bring the whole shebang tumbling down. They not only knew this, but also exactly what would happen as it occurred and the exact date it would all unfold. They weren’t exactly right in the end, but it didn’t matter. They had manoeuvred for all they were worth to be in best position to benefit. The few in the know were all going to be very, very wealthy – despite the chaos almost culminating in the bankruptcy of the system when it did. And all what they did was perfectly permissible under law. A panic hit the financial markets of the world, bringing some countries teetering to the brink, but the American tax payer was forced to bail out the big banks, saving their skins. Much of these rescue packages were taken up with the bonuses paid to the high-flyers who were responsible for the whole mess. Thousands and thousands of average Joes and Josephines were left homeless as a result. There was no bail out for them. And our heroes – well they made the killing they expected.
It basically made me feel sick to the stomach. So much greed. Just greed.
Official trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWr8hbUkG9s