The Big Short, film review: ‘Why couldn’t Wolf of Wall Street do this?’

Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in The Big Short. Picture: Jaap Buitendijk/Parmount Pictures

Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in The Big Short. Picture: Jaap Buitendijk/Parmount Pictures - Credit: Photo by Jaap Buitendijk

Adam McKay’s examination of the US housing market crash is smart, entertaining and doesn’t pull its punches, says Michael Joyce.

Director: Adam McKay Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and Rafe Spall Film Length: 130 mins

Bowie, Rickman and Lemmy dead, horrendous flooding, terrorism: the turn of the year hasn’t been a period brimming with optimism. Now, just as a few lone voices are predicting that the economy will crash this year, comes a film about a few lone voices who realised that the American housing market was about to crash in 2007 and how no lessons have been learned and nothing has changed. And a Happy New Year to you too!

At this time of year many gongs are given out to films that are supposedly about something, but are really just about being about something; conventional strolls down traditional narrative paths that just happen to take in some unusual backdrops. The Big Short really takes on its subject: it is a root and branch analysis of what went wrong, how the seed was planted in the ‘70s, how it was allowed to grow and fester and how everybody failed, or refused to notice. It even explains subprime mortgages, CDOs and AAA ratings.

At this point it needs to be pointed out that The Big Short is also wonderfully entertaining. Horrifying, enraging, depressing but still enormous fun. The film that keeps springing to mind while watching it is The Wolf of Wall Street. The two address the same topic, have a similar confidence and swagger but DiCaprio’s film spends its bloated running time ignoring the issue it professes to address, glorifying the people it seeks to condemn while frittering away its three hours in an epic rerun of Animal House. It’s a classic example of popular culture acting as a piece of misdirection for big business. The Big Short should leave The Wolf whimpering sheepishly in the corner with embarrassment.


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It’s a brilliant film, but there is no good in it.

Our four heroes spot injustice, and immediately set about working out how they can profit from it. No arcs reach redemption during its running time. There are no sympathetic characters, nobody to root for, and no uplifting endings. Its pleasures lie in being treated like a grown up and being told something straight.

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Rating: 5/5 stars

For longer reviews and a look at the DVD release of life on death row documentary The Fear Of 13, visit halfmanhalfcritic.weebly.com.

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