The Big Short (15)
Running time: 130 minutes
Anchorman director Adam McKay might be a surprise choice to make a film about the 2008 housing crash, but the gamble paid off in spades in The Big Short.
McKay adds a touch of jet-black humour to the topic of financial apocalypse, bringing an energetic and cartoonish edge to a complicated topic that’s hard for the uninitiated to get their head around.
Don’t worry if you snoozed through Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps or couldn’t engage with Margin Call, The Big Short delivers on entertainment value and leaves you with plenty to chew on once the end credits roll.
It helps that McKay has Michael Lewis’ (Moneyball) best-seller to work from and an A-grade cast who are all impressively playing against type. Christian Bale is a socially-awkward, glass-eye wearing financial hotshot, Ryan Gosling a sleazy trader, Steve Carell a rage-filled hedge fund manager and Brad Pitt a reclusive germophobe, who’s pulled back into finance by a pair of eager upstarts.
The Big Short’s key players all spot the impending crash ahead of time, and seek to profit from betting against the market. Carell’s Mark Baum is the most interesting character to emerge from it all, wracked by guilt as he realises that America’s impending financial oblivion will leave millions without homes and jobs.
Though it’s ultimately a doomsday movie set in the meetings rooms and corridors of hedge funds and banks, it’s acutely aware when it needs to let off the comedic release valve. As Gosling delivers a complicated rundown of subprime mortgages, McKay quickly cuts away to Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain it all. There are other great cameos, too. Namely chef Anthony Bourdain comparing fish to finance and Selena Gomez running through collateralised debt obligations.
McKay brings everything together brilliantly in the finale, paying off each of his characters while delivering a stinging indictment about the bankers and mortgage brokers who caused $15 trillion to go up in smoke. The most worrying thing of all? Only one banker went to jail for the crisis and no major financial reforms took place. So, roll on The Big Short 2…
Ride Along 2 (12A)
Running time: 102 minutes
Comedy sequels are a tricky beast. For every 22 Jump Street or Hot Shots Part Deux, there’s a Hangover 2 or Police Academy 2 (and 3, 4, 5…)
Ride Along 2 falls squarely in the latter category, pretty much rehashing the same plot as its predecessor and running its sole winning gag – Kevin Hart gets himself into a slapstick pratfall – firmly into the ground.
This time around, Hart’s rookie cop Ben Barber is still desperately chasing the approval of his soon-to-be brother-in-law James Payton (Ice Cube). When they latch onto a lead involving a Miama drug ring, the pair shoot off to crack the case and connect the dots to slippery businessman Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt).
Cube and Hart still riff off each other well, but they’re lumbered with a script that’s light on gags that hit the mark. When your best joke involves a ringtone, then things might be getting a bit desperate.
Olivia Munn and Ken Jeong are cast newcomers, mirroring Cube and Hart as the stern no-nonsense presence next to a zanier counterpart. Jeong is intermittently funny as a gurning computer hacker, but Munn’s cop Maya gets little to do aside from a sultry dance with Pope as she tries to infiltrate his operation. Let’s hope she’s given more to do in X-Men: Apocalypse.
Ride Along 2 will manage to generate a few quiet laughs, but it’s more throwaway airplane viewing than a film you absolutely need to rush to the cinema to catch.