top of page

And the Walls Keep Tumbling Down: The Big Short Review


Dir: Adam McKay

Wri: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay. Book by Michael Lewis

Prod: Kevin J. Messick, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Arnon Milchan,Brad Pitt  Louise Rosner, Robyn Wholey

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt

“If you can tell me the difference between stupidity and fraud, I’ll have my wife’s brother arrested,” says Jared Bennet (Ryan Gosling) in the new film depicting the fall of the American housing market, and the few guys who predicted it, in the Big Short. When you think about it, what is the difference? Well there’s one big difference. One: fraud, is thought out; and the other, stupidity, is just a lack of knowledge and direction. And this shows in the film.

While we’re watching Gosling and crew: Michael Berry (Christian Bale) Mark Buam (Steve Carell) and banking entrepreneurs Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittock) and Charlie Geller, (John Magaro) take on big banks–due to the bank’s fraudulent and worthless loans–by scamming money through betting banks that the loans will tank– we’re secretly in a way are cheering for them. The Big Short makes these gentleman out to be heroes. Not, Vennet, who continuously tells us he’s not the hero, but mostly appears in the film as a voice of reason, (and narrator)–we as Americans feel way too familiar and trusting of. In reality the main characters are just as much as scumbags as the banks. The only difference is that these scumbags have a conscious. So I would like to ask: tell me the difference between a scrumbag and a scumbag with a conscious and I’ll tell you why we haven’t had a revolution. 

The Big Short is witty, entertaining, and slightly innovative with its film documentary style that incorporates actual sequences where people stop to talk to the audience: these moments are mostly filled with celebrities like Anthony Bourdain, Selena Gomez, and Margot Robbie. These celebrities attempt to explain in simplified, commercial terms, what a lot of the jargon–which isn’t that hard to understand– is trying to convey, while maintaining the boarder between stupidity, and farce, and actual meaningful dialogue and agency, which we as Americans still find ourselves doing–what these main characters find themselves doing. The Big Short attempts to make this bunch redeemable by bringing attention to their iniquities–that serve as near disabilities. Barry’s inability to have personal relationships (although he’s a genius) and Baum’s narcism and hero complex. Vennet is just a money hungry, and most likely a closeted gay, who resides behind the scenes because he is the one person in the film that knows he doesn’t matter. Shipley and Geller are just money hungry, but geeks. They are painted as outcasts. They are dysfunctional psychics who are consciously patronized, laughed at, screwed over and even sued. They are the guys we should be listening to but instead we’re too busy being apart of the rat race. 

In a sense, it seems as if director Adam McKay wants us to sympathize with this bunch and their idleness, about trying to warn the American people about the housing market collapse. These guys are portrayed as incapable men in need to conquer issues of their own. The only man who actually does not fit into their craziness is Brad Pitt’s character, Ben Rickert. Ben Rickert is a the savoir, and it seems like Adam Mckay plays him up to match Bale’s and Carrell’s character’s austricized status in society. 

Pitt has the smallest role but it has the most moral charge–in a sense he equals out Bale and Carell. In a scene where Shipley, and Garett rejoice over placing more bets on a sure shot failure of more invaluable bonds, while at a banking conference in Las Vegas at the assistance of Rickert, Rickert, turns to them while in a casino and says to them, “Why are you rejoicing? You just bet against the American Economy”. Shipley and Garrett don’t care and are untroubled by this fact and keep rejoicing. Rickert tells them, “If the market collapses, that means no jobs, no houses, mass unemployment…This is why I left wall street–because everything is about numbers…people become numbers.” He throws more than numbers at them, driving home the point, that much like the banks success lies on the destruction of people, so does there’s. He then tells them–”Just don’t dance.” Much like Brad Pitt’s part and as it seems his reasoning for even being in roles, also was the point of this film:  a small reminder: of what happens when we don’t take into consideration our actions when we try to run the rat race. We see films and support characters who are idle when it comes to being responsible, and continue to let authoritative figures–such as a hot celebrity, or a big bank, or a guy with a smooth voice, nice hair, and white face tell us what to do. What is the difference between stupidity and fraud? The difference is hope, in a few. It’s going to take a lot more than someone writing a review or making a movie to keep people from turning into frauds.  It’s all up to those who are brave, and hopefully won’t need an excuse to not do anything and realize there is no difference–in America. 


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page