This just in: Wall Street is still corrupt as ever in 'The Big Short'
The Big Short starts with harrowing images of the housing market collapse of 2008. Mothers covering their grieving faces and furniture sprawled out on the lawn of foreclosed homes are just a few of the snapshots that flash on the screen.
This movie is about how the big banks of Wall Street in the United States completely fucked over the world economy due to their own selfish greed – and it’s a true story. Despite being based on some very dark events in the United States’ recent past, Adam McKay (director/screenplay) and Charles Randolph (screenplay) introduce the characters in a fun way with plenty of humor sprinkled throughout. Soon after making his appearance, Jared Venett (Ryan Gosling) breaks the fourth wall in an effort to help the audience digest some of the complicated banking jargon – designed by the banks that way on purpose, as pointed out by Jared, so that people will “leave the banks the fuck alone.”
The characters’ interactions with the audience were also especially interesting – they turned to the screen to inform us about the stories’ exaggerations: “We didn’t really find this paperwork in the lobby of a bank that rejected us,” said one investor, adding that the true story was that they knew someone who knew someone. It was as if the cinematic re-telling and the journalistic report of the actual events are somewhat side-by-side.
The story really starts to hit home when a renter in Florida finds out his landlord is over 90 days delinquent on his mortgage. “Are you serious? Am I going to have to find somewhere else to live?” A small child makes his way to the door as his dad says “My kid just settled into school. It’s not my fault; I’ve been paying my rent.” Like many people, I’m a renter too, and that instance of fear is just one more stressor on the long list of unfairness when it comes to being at the mercy of those in society with more capital. You can pay your rent on time, but it doesn’t guarantee your residence might be sold – or foreclosed on – from under you at any time.
Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is the real-life guy who spotted the housing bubble before it happened. After looking into the bundled mortgages put together by the banks, he decides to go to Wall Street and slap his balls on the desks of the biggest U.S. banks – Bank of America, Deutsche and Goldman Sachs. He puts his company’s liquidity – and pretty much all of the company’s investors’ money – on the table in a bet that the loans won’t make it. Basically, the banks bundled a bunch of mortgage loans to profit on – and because their dicks were so hard with greed – they just kept bundling, even when they knew the loans were shitty while planning to jack up the prices by 200%. Human beings are terrible, especially rich bankers. So when Michael Burry walked in and offered them a shit ton of money (several hundred million per bank) as long as the big banks agreed to pay HIM if the mortgage loans failed; they, of course, took the deal. It’s at that point that one of the bankers said “This is Wall Street, if you offer us free money, we will take it.” What a perfect line for such a scummy industry that’s still running wild and stuffing hundred dollar bills that could be used to house homeless children into strippers’ buttholes.
The film does become a confusing vortex of bank jargon at times, with terms like sub-prime mortgages, collateralized debt obligation, and other vague terms that sound like corporate safe words for fucking regular people over (because they are). Director Adam McKay also directed Step Brothers, Anchorman and Talladega Nights, so he does a decent job of dumbing it down to keep us in the loop, even though I was left scratching my head at times. Of course, that’s what the banks were going for, and they succeeded. Fuckers.
I mean who are these soulless, satanic vessels of the underworld, who purposely created shitty housing loans so that families wound up homeless? Do you think any of them went to jail? As the story continues following the investor cast from their offices in New York to the American Securitization Forum in Las Vegas, you’ll eventually have your answer.
The biggest lesson is the bailout. Wall Street screwed the economy (not just in the U.S. but globally), put families out on the streets, and turned around and made the American people pay for it with a taxpayer bailout. Pay special attention to Jared’s speech at the end. You won’t believe it but you should, because it’s what really happened.