Back Rowe Reviews
Real Time Movie Reviews from the Back Row of a Theater

The Big Short (R)

Directed by: Adam McKay
Starring: Christian Bale
December 2015

The below comments (in Black) were originally tweeted in Real-time from the back row of a movie theater and appear @BackRoweReviews. Though efforts were made to tease rather than ruin this movie’s memorable lines and moments, some spoilers may exist in the following evaluation (in Red). For concerns over objectionable content, please first refer to one of the many parental movie guide websites. All ratings are based on a four star system. Happy reading!

The Big Short
Appropriate quote from #MarkTwain to open the film.
“It all came crashing down.” #Greed #Tragic
“You have a very nice haircut. Did you do it yourself?” Ha! #SocialIneptitude
How to #Hijack a #SupportGroup.
Short the #HousingMarket. #IncitingIncident
I learned more about #SubprimeLoans from @MargotRobbie in a #Bubblebath than any news story...and I liked it.
A #Short deal for 100 million. #GoldmanSachs is laughing now.
“Who bets against housing?”
“No one is paying attention.” #Scary
#CDO is like three day old halibut. Love the visual illustration by #AnthonyBourdain.
Four people per 100 houses in FL. There are more alligators per the one in the swimming pool.
They’re not confessing. They’re bragging. Pride comes before the fall.
“Fueled by stupidity.” The short definition of our entire system.
“A completely fraudulent system.” Imagine that.
The AAs are like Bs. “Kinda brilliant.”
#SyntheticCDO Atomic bomb to the #SubprimeBubble.
“I say when we sell.” Phenomenal acting by @SteveCarell.
Final analysis: a sobering look at greed run amok with amusing direct addresses and educational sidebars.
3 1/2 out of 4. Superb acting with an educational, accessible story from writer/director Adam McKay.

As Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) enthusiastically declared in Wall Street (1987), “Greed is good.” However, when a glut of greed causes an entire financial institution to become fraudulent, which in turn threatens to crash that nation’s economy, greed most definitely isn’t good. The Big Short is based on the book of the same name (subtitled: “Inside the Doomsday Machine”), written by Michael Lewis, and chronicles the events that precipitated the financial meltdown in 2008. Just like other movies that have focused on the subject at hand, i.e., HBO’s Too Big to Fail (2011), Short is less an entertainment than a cautionary tale wrapped inside a biopic. If the movie’s subject matter conjures images of a dry, narrated documentary, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that Short is nothing of the sort. Writer/director Adam McKay (Anchorman, 2004) has done a superb job of describing complex financial concepts in layman’s terms, and has employed luminaries like Margo Robbie, Anthony Bourdain and Selena Gomez to explain those concepts in amusing vignettes. As in the similarly themed The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Short allows numerous characters to break the fourth wall and address the audience in supplemental, anecdotal or humorous asides. All of these story devices lend the film a unique narrative flow, which makes it accessible to a mass audience and prevents it from degenerating into a derivative snore-fest. The cast is headlined by Brad Pitt, despite the fact that his character is ancillary to the action and his screen time is far less than many of his co-stars. Christian Bale is extremely effective as glass-eyed, socially awkward hedge fund manager Michael Burry, the first person (according to the movie) to bet against the housing market. The most impressive (and unexpected when considering his typical role) performance is turned in by Steve Carell, who plays Mark Baum, the low empathy, high maintenance ringleader of a small team of renegades inside Morgan Stanley. The freeze-frame shot of Baum’s face when he learns about Synthetic CDOs perfectly mirrors our own expressions of confusion, disbelief and betrayal. For scores of people who were adversely affected by the bursting of the “credit bubble,” it will take the rest of their life to wipe that look off of their face. If Short has done its job properly, you should leave the theater furious over how the banks have destroyed millions of lives and very nearly tanked our economy. Short is an important film, not only as an edutainment, but also as a reminder for us to never again commit this kind of financial blunder…as is hauntingly hinted at in the final scene of the film.