Margin Call

  • Year:2011
  • Rating:MA
  • Director:J.C. Chandor
  • Cast:Simon Baker, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Kevin Spacey
  • Release Date:March 15, 2012
  • Distributor:Becker
  • Running time:107 minutes
  • Film Worth:$11.00
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

It’s slick, topical and competently acted, but audiences will be hard pressed to care what happens to a rich and selfish group of suits.

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New York in 2008 was, of course, the epicentre of a massive stock market crash (and an equally massive subsequent governmental bailout). This story unfolds in the 24 hours or so before that crash, and specifically involves the goings-on inside a hitherto successful investment company. The writing is evidently on the wall, because 80% of the staff have just been summarily "let go."

So what, we are supposed to wonder, is going to happen to the surviving risk analysts and other wiz-kids? They're all amoral at best, though one of the bosses - Sam (Kevin Spacey), who's been there for 34 years - is presented as essentially likeable and conscionable, with these qualities being supposedly signposted by the fact that he cares about his dying dog. Then there's the smugly suave CEO, John (Jeremy Irons), and the smart "kid", Peter (Zachary Quinto), whose mental exertions reveal the full extent of the impending crisis. (His conclusions are based on the prior efforts of the just-sacked Eric, played with coiled-spring presence by Stanley Tucci.) The solution, it is determined, lies in a "fire sale", in other words, the frantic dumping of all possible investments onto unsuspecting regular clients, before word gets out that the stock is worthless. Just about everyone is excruciatingly full of his - or, in Demi Moore's case, her - importance, which is probably true to life. The problem is that a lot of the minor players come across as merely gormless rather than brooding.

Margin Call is slick and tolerably acted, but it's forgettable, and our level of engagement in the drama is severely diminished by the nature of its characters. Or, to put it more bluntly: who cares what happens to a bunch of greedy, selfish fat cats?

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