(director/writer: Adam McKay; screenwriters: based upon the book by Michael Lewis/Michael Lewis/Charles Randolph; cinematographer: Barry Ackroyd; editor: Hank Corwin; music: Nicholas Britell; cast: Steve Carell (Mark Baum), Christian Bale (Michael Burry), Ryan Gosling (Jared Vennett), John Magaro (Charles Geller), Finn Wittrock (Jamie Shipley), Melissa Leo (Georgia Hale), Karen Gillan (Evie), Hamish Linklater (Porter Collins) Brad Pitt (Ben Rickert), Jeremy Strong (Vinny Daniel), Marisa Tomei (Cynthia Baum), Adepero Oduye (Kathy Tao), Tracy Letts (Lawrence Fields), Max Greenfield), Byron Mann (Mr. Chau), Rafe Spall (Danny Moses), Richard Thaler (Himself), Selena Gomez (Herself), Anthony Bourdain (Himself); Runtime: 130; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Arnon Milchan; Paramount; 2015)

A cheeky film about the 2008 financial crisis.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A cheeky film about the 2008 financial crisis, that takes the form of a comical lecture to explain the dense schemes attempted by the respected but shady Wall Street bankers and the opportunistic hedge fund operators, using junk food in place of the bonds to explain how the bonds were used to mortgage the homes bought on bad loans were crap. It takes the format of a film for dummies for investors to explain the financial schemes that caused the housing market crash.

Writer-director Adam McKay (“Step Brothers”/”The Landlord”/”The Procedure”) cleverly adapts Michael Lewis’ best-seller The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, which centers on the housing credit bubble of the 2000s. It shows both the banker crooks responsible for working the scheme and of those few oddball mavericks, against the grain operators, who saw it coming and figured out ways to profit from it.

Charles Randolph, along with Lewis and McKay round out the writers, who tell us as much about the global market collapse as they think we can handle. They keep the economic apocalypse as a comical farce while telling how it really hurt the little guy, as when the bubble burst in 2008 and it destroyed economies around the world, unemployment in America significantly rose, the housing market crashed and pensions funds took a severe beating. In the end, only one small hedge fund manager went to jail, while the government rewarded the crooked bankers with a bail-out and, for the people, some rules were put into place to prevent a repeat debacle. But these crooks never missed a beat, it was only the average innocent guy who bore the brunt of the hardships from the housing collapse.

The real-life glass-eyed maven stock-picker Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale) was the first fund manager to smell something rotten about the bank-based MBS (mortgaged backed security) loans for home mortgages, which were soon given to everyone in the form of a subprime–whereby the bonds securing these loans were of lower value than stated and would soon through further shenanigans would become further diluted and worthless. The weirdo but brilliant Burry devised a so-called insane way of buying from the financial houses an investment to short the bank mortgages.

When the banker Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), the film’s narrator, accidentally gets wind of the bank’s scheme, he hooks up with the whiner investment consultant Mark Baum (Steve Carell), and his team (Jeremy Strong, Rafe Spall), and they invest in shorting the bank’s housing loans.

A former trader, now a conservationist, Ben Wickert (Brad Pitt), gets into the scummy action on the request of two idiotic get rich quick seekers, the garage-based hedge fund youngsters (John Magaro & Finn Wittrock), who stumble upon the banker’s scheme and use Ben to do their Wall Street trades.

There are no heroes, the best we get for good guys are the cynics who believe Wall Street will always be rigged and warn us not to fully trust it. What might turn viewers off is that all the dialogue is financial talk, the information is too exhaustive to take in fully if not a broker, and there’s no subplots about either the daring visionary investors who made a killing from the collapse or the crooked bankers who also made a killing despite the collapse.