Crash and learn

The implosion of the credit and housing market and subsequent 2008 government bail-out was scarcely a laughing matter, but filmmaker Adam McKay does his satirical best to make it one in The Big Short, a flashy and star-studded adaptation of Michael Lewis’ non-fiction best-seller.

In Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong, Rafe Spall, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro, award-winning playwright Tracy Letts and Brad Pitt (also a producer), McKay has assembled a first-rate line-up of actors, playing financial wizards who make up for their lack of social graces in financial acumen.

Gosling’s hot-shot Jared Venneck provides salty, smart-assed narration, and McKay employs various celebrities (including Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez) to explain to viewers the implications and possible consequences of the jargon being endlessly spouted. You may not understand it perfectly – or even at all — but you’re likely to be entertained nevertheless.

Many of the characters saw “the Big Short” coming, and some – particularly Carell’s Mark Baum – issued unheeded warnings. They knew it would be very big and very bad. Just how bad, of course, would be the trillion-dollar(s) question – which some people are still asking to this day. In the end, some of them even profited.

It’s admirable that McKay, best known for rollicking comedies starring producing partner Will Ferrell (Anchorman 1 and 2, Talladega Nights, etc.), aims much higher here, and The Big Short has a frenetic, hyper-active tone.

The Big Short is a whirling dervish of a film, tossing satirical barbs and financial factoids in slap-happy style, but as the story narrows toward its inevitable conclusion, it loses just a bit of focus and traction as it attempts to tie up various loose ends — some of which, it should be noted, are still dangling, rather dangerously. !

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