The Big Short

Bale of Slay

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale

Review written by Robert D. Patrick

Upon first inspection, there’s no possible way that Adam McKay, director of such films as Anchorman and The Other Guys, had this movie in him. The slinger of saliva and suds, McKay is known for the “Brozone Lair” genre – infantile buddies with anger problems. And, come to think of it, maybe The Big Short – a film about selfish, verbose opportunists slapping mitts –  isn’t that far off from his usual movies, after all. Adapted from Michael Lewis’ book of the same name, The Big Short recalls, in an uncorked and carbonated way, the 2008 financial crisis that sent jobs hurdling into the vortex from 2001: A Space Odyssey. To keeps the numbers, industry lingo, and theorems to an accessible minimum, McKay employs a Gatling gun approach, whereas the information zings by with speed and ferocity.

A handful of celebrities are even tossed in, seemingly in a non sequitor fashion, to simplify things for the audience. It’s an indictment of our fascination with pomp and glow that McKay shoehorns statistics into the movie by using glamour; a mirror shines on America’s deficit of attention. The breakneck speed in which glib humor is spun makes the movie seem superlative, but in actuality the fluidity is clever and with purpose. Visually, McKay employs everything from cooking metaphors to onscreen animation to paintball his ideas. This is some of the most contemporary and colorful editing, direction, and dialogue of the year.

The cast of the film ranges from a nasally, perpetually frowning Steve Carell to Ryan Gosling dressed to look like Steve Guttenberg. While it may have the cameo heavy appearance of a Valentine’s Day or I Love You, New York, the players, here, are arranged for a reason. If someone had told me that either Bennett Miller or David O. Russell had directed The Big Short, I would immediately believe them – the zoom-ins of pixelized computer screens, paired with incendiary and incredulous dialogue draw shadows of the two aforementioned auteurs.

While the mood of the film zip-lines from teeth baring comedy to sobering drama, without a deft transition, much of McKay’s firework laden spectacle delivers in spades. Christian Bale, though woefully underused, creates a pyre of indelible tics. This is the fun, smart, and goofy film that will electrify, surprise, and let you down all at the same time – and sometimes that’s what a good movie does best.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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