Would it help to tell you that you need to see Inside Job even though, in all likelihood, you will leave the theater discomforted, scared and angry enough to immediately head to Lowe's and stock up on a healthy supply of wooden torches and enough rope to rig a pirate ship? Would telling you that the 90 percent of the populace that doesn't move their lips while they read, or operate in one sphere of the cyclical news media, need to see Inside Job and start talking about it with the other 8 percent on the off chance they might take the truth from a friend? Would it even help to tell you that those 98 percent (meaning you) are getting raped by the near mythical, richest 2 percent and Inside Job whispers in your ear, in timely fashion, exactly how that's happening and why? Because that's exactly what it feels like -- and that's exactly what it does. This film, in most any other country, would foment riots.
The financial meltdown of 2008 still resonates grimly and shouldn't be a distant memory for most. Inside Job is the first in-depth look at the structure of the crisis, the intentionally flawed mechanics that allowed it to happen and the key instigators whose roles (be they incompetents or criminals) helped to perpetrate the biggest unprosecuted Ponzi scheme in human history.
It would be pointless to try and dissect the byzantine ant hill of international banking and the ways a handful of unregulated investment giants, securities raters and insurers, gamed the system for short term gains; gains that had the long-term effect of wiping out billions of dollars of investor money, collapsing the mortgage market (precipitating the ongoing foreclosure of millions of homes) while very nearly destroying the global financial system itself, as surely and devastatingly as any nuclear weapon, all while suffering no consequence to themselves. That's the film's job. Besides, we bailed them out.
This is the sort of situation that drives the incoherent rage of the Tea Party, which has -- surprise -- now been completely usurped by the very big business wing of the Republican Party (which is to say almost all of it) that they protest; who are largely responsible for removing the checks and balances that allowed those investment banks to pull of this neat heist to begin with. But despite the presence of uber-liberal Matt Damon providing that voice in your ear, Inside Job touches any person that believes criminals who steal their money should be caught and prosecuted, regardless of political ideology.
Inside Job seems to ignore ideology as well, laying blame at the lowest and highest levels, from Reagan to Obama, though perhaps not equally. Still, it's not necessarily a Michael Moore-style polemic, despite the fact that the film and its writer/producer/director Charles Ferguson (of the surprisingly non-judgmental Iraq War documentary, No End In Sight) are clearly pissed off. I suppose people have some varied views on the need and wisdom of going to Iraq, but, again, most people's views tend to converge rather quickly when it comes to the consequences of massive corruption and fraud; massive corruption and fraud that only benefits a small fraction of "people" and leaves literally millions in tatters.
Ferguson puts faces and names to the events and has surprising access to many of the people closest to the players he fingers for responsibility (who have invariably declined to be interviewed for the film) as well as industry leaders in the banking sector, deans of the top business schools (who feed each other's indiscernible ethics) and politicians both international and domestic, who often defend the system they helped create.
Ferguson stumbles a bit in his deconstruction, going so far as to examine the psychology of the A-personality-types that tend to become traders and hedge fund operators. Turns out, when they get rich, they start doing a lot of coke and screwing hookers on the company's dime. Who knew? Ferguson even interviews the Madame of an upscale brothel located a couple of blocks from Wall Street.
Eliot Spitzer, who provides a cogent analysis on the defunding of regulatory bodies; illustrating how the regulatory power in place to stop the crisis before it blew had become too weakened to be wielded, remained mum on the more carnal of Wall Street's excesses. Can't say I blamed him.
The real triumph of Inside Job is in the way it clearly and concisely details its complex, exhaustively documented, well-researched and apparently prosecutable case without making it a logjam of info-overload. That's sort of a lie. It does border on saturation, but that's only because it becomes difficult to catalog all the ways in which this film doles out its enraging facts.
But ultimately Inside Job, while dense, is in no way dry. Ferguson shoots a good looking film and he isn't afraid to ask tough questions of his subjects who often have gnawingly uncomfortable reactions, which inspired contemptuous, if intentional, laughter.
A night out at the movies doesn't always have to be mass-market entertainment, even when it's a movie that requires the brain to be switched on (Inception). Every once in a while, it would be great if, at the risk of leaving the theater without a goofy smile, the masses were drawn to something like Inside Job as readily as Grown Ups. Maybe things wouldn't be like they are right now if they did.
"Hi, I'm Zack Galifianakis and my name destroys spell check. I'm here to tell you about my latest attempt to fill the void of Will Ferrell -- not like that, you sillies! -- with my good friend Robert Downey, Jr. and the guy I made a metric fuckton of money with on The Hangover. It's called Due Date, though if you are older than 30, it's called Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I'm just going to step out and do a small, indie/arty movie to make up for this one. After all, I must check myself before I wreck myself."
At least that's what was running through my mind the first couple of hundred times I saw the trailers for Due Date. Shockingly enough, I was right.
Granted, I don't think Galifianakis has yet worn out his welcome as much as Ferrell has but his character, Ethan Tremblay (nee Chase) is the type of un-self aware, well-meaning clod that has defined much of Ferrell's output -- though if that weren't proof enough of ZG's trajectory, one scene that finds his bulbous ab-fro invading fellow traveler Peter Highman's (Downey) face seems to suggest a Ferrellian willingness to milk his furry dermis for laughs.
That scene occurs near the beginning of Due Date, which immediately throws Ethan, an aspiring actor with a ridiculous perm, and Peter on a plane bound for Los Angeles from Atlanta and then throws them right off again when said beer belly inspires an altercation that gets Peter shot with rubber bullets by an air marshal. Waking up to find his luggage and ID are 35,000 feet in the air and that he's been placed on a federal no-fly list, Peter is forced to hitch a ride with Ethan to L.A., where Peter's pregnant wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan, reuniting with Downey for the first time since the excellent Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang) is due to give birth by C-section in three days time.
Peter is an impatient control freak with anger issues and Ethan's annoying quirks go to work on his nerves quickly though his intolerance is tempered by the sympathy Peter feels for the fact that Ethan, idiot though he may be, is carrying his recently deceased father's ashes around in a coffee can and that his only friend seems to be a mucilaginous French bulldog. Being that he has no real choice, Peter does his best to grin and bear it.
But of course what should be the fairly straightforward endeavor of driving across America goes south. Ethan spends most of their money on a bag of Northern Lights for his glaucoma; they enrage a Western Union teller (Danny McBride in a stand-out cameo) who keeps them from getting more money; Ethan falls asleep at the wheel and sends their rental car off an overpass to crash on the highway below -- which should have killed them both; oh, suspension of disbelief, where art thou? -- and ultimately gets Peter arrested in Mexico while holding Ethan's supply of chronic. But somehow, Peter warms to him.
Director Todd Phillips (The Hangover, Old School) has never entered genius-comedic-director territory, though his films have been intermittently entertaining and funny enough. But with Due Date, I walked away feeling like he was dipping into Jay Roach (Dinner for Schmucks) depths of hackery. The similarities with Schmucks are there: Ostensibly based on earlier films, they are purposely formulaic comedies that aren't afraid to go for the lowbrow laugh and are principally made watchable due to their slick productions and the talents of their two leads (Paul Rudd and Steve Carell for Schmucks). Though Due Date gets a little raunchier with its R-rating -- lowbrow here includes Galifianakis rubbing one out while his bulldog mimics him with some disturbingly hilarious results -- it never gets particularly audacious or original with the latitude afforded its R-rating. Even if the plot of the film weren't entirely given away in the trailers, almost every gag is telegraphed from a mile off; except for the masturbating dog. I didn't see that coming.
Fortunately, Downey and Galifianakis make going through the motions a fairly painless effort. They have a good chemistry and while Galifianakis seems intent on being a smart comic who plays dumb characters (not that Peter is all that bright, either), Downey in a comedy is always engaging to watch no matter what he's doing. His razor sharp comedic timing was always his strong suit, so much so it bleeds over into many of his roles be they Tony Stark or Sherlock Holmes. His sarcastic retorts to Ethan's cluelessness brought a few laughs despite the fact I never believed his character would have been remotely as forgiving of Ethan as he ultimately is. Of course, the script isn't that smart, either.
It's not a terrible movie; nothing to actively hate like Cop Out -- I might have to father a child that grows up to review films who might live long enough to see something as tortuous as Cop Out. But, much like Dinner for Schmucks, Due Date seems like a case of comedic talents exceeding the sum of their film's generic parts.
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