The Big Short is able to deliver an entertaining account of reckless capitalism, but the book adaptation gets sidetracked by its own gimmickry.

When four outsiders saw what the big banks, media and government refused to, the global collapse of the economy, they had an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of modern banking where they must question everyone and everything. [Paramount Pictures]

Who knew that investment banking can be this entertaining?

Charles Randolph and Adam McKay chops a technical subject into digestible chunks and delivers edu-tainment. Unlike The Wolf of Wall Street, The Big Short doesn’t end up becoming complicit to the travails of its characters by focusing on a system that encourages reckless capitalism. The movie is also aware that it’s just a matter of time before audiences get tired watching men in suits throw a mash of jargon and cuss words at each other, so it breaks the fourth wall to guide the audience through the story and enlists celebrities that millennials can identify with to provide layman explanations. In one scene, Jared Vennett uses Jenga to explain the fraudulent structure of the housing market. Long story short, its made up of faulty loans with incorrect AAA ratings bundled and stacked on each other.

This alpha douche is played by Ryan Gosling, who has proven he can do comedy (see: Crazy, Stupid, Love) as much as drama (see: Blue Valentine). While his character is the narrator of The Big Short, Mark Baum emerges as the protagonist and heart of the cynical book adaptation. Steve Carrell has also proven that he can be versatile, taking on another serious role after Foxcatcher. The two are joined by bankable stars Brad Pitt and Christian Bale. The leads manage to make their characters likeable. They’re accompanied by a supporting cast that adds a variety of outsiders and enablers.

While McKay’s effort to take on a broad topic is admirable, The Big Short often gets distracted by its own gimmickry.

The frantic cinematography is exhausting. Barry Ackroyd attempts to present important scenes as if it were an action movie, but ends up muddling whatever important information your supposed to derive from the sequence.

While its comedic approach to a confusing subject is amusing, such as using Selena to explain complex terms like a synthetic CDO, these lectures interfere with the narrative. From a different standpoint, it’s another way of saying that mainstream audiences today are so dumb the only way to get their attention is to use celebrities.

There is a sense of outrage through the course of the movie, but it downplays the fact that its characters are no different from your average banker who leverages an opportunity for maximum profit. A bunch of bankers profited from the stupidity of the banks who profited from the ignorance of unsuspecting Americans.

Overall, the movie’s approach makes it look like a 2 hour long lecture inspired by The Office. The movie does acknowledge the reality of the situation in the end, but this is lost in the sped up montage of random images.

Still, The Big Short does manage to get your attention while making you laugh at the ingenuity of its characters and seethe at the truth of their success. It doesn’t give you anything substantial about the scale and scope of the impact of the financial crisis, but it is able to provide a more accessible information about an exploitable system.

My Rating: 7/10

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