'The Big Short' is entertaining but has a kid-glove attitude toward amorality

'Short' stars Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, and others as a band of investors who anticipated the housing bubble and profited from the crash.

Jaap Buitendijk/Paramount Pictures/AP
'The Big Short' stars Brad Pitt (l.).

“The Big Short” is fast-paced and entertaining, and, given that it’s about the home loan mortgage crisis that led to the 2008 financial collapse, I found it surprisingly easy to follow. 

But as much as I enjoyed parts of this film, I was bothered, as I was to a much greater extent in “The Wolf of Wall Street," by the high-style amorality on display – or, to be more precise, by the film’s kid-glove attitude toward that amorality.

Directed and co-written by Adam McKay and based on Michael Lewis's nonfiction bestseller, “The Big Short” is about a band of disparate investors who, anticipating the housing bubble and ready to stick it to the big banks, profit from the crash. They are played by, among others, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Christian Bale, the mastermind of the scheme, who seems more like a stoned surfer dude than a fat cat, and who has one glass eye (the warmer one?). Brad Pitt also turns up as a refugee from the Wall Street wars who has decamped with his millions to Colorado. For some reason I can’t fathom, all of these actors are wearing unsightly hairpieces. 

Anticipating the audience’s confusions about investment lingo, McKay periodically features celebrities such as Selena Gomez purringly decodingthe arcana for us and speaking directly into the camera. It’s a cute ploy that wears thin fast. 

The actors play their roles to the hilt, but in the end, the role of these investors in extenuating the crisis they took advantage of is played down, as is the disastrous life consequences of all those who were severely hit by it. This wouldn’t be the first time that a movie aimed at championing “good” guys ended up more temperamentally in tune with the bad guys. Grade: B (Rated R for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity.)

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