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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

MARGIN CALL (2011)

J. C. Chandor’s debut as scripter/megger is a sort of upper-echelon GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS/’92 , less the David Mamet windy flourishes, but still Guys in Suits Selling Junk. The suits are more tasteful, the office is high-rise and the worthless properties are now those mystery-meat pies known as ‘derivatives’ that helped bring down the Wall Street investment banks in ‘08. But the kill or be killed ethos remains. The dramatic structure is beautifully handled, and Chandor gets buckets of great perfs out of his starry cast even when he fumbles his set ups. (For some reason, he’s stymied by boardroom logistics.) But even while holding our attention as the firm discovers their unsustainable position and preps a crassly self-serving junk sale, we don’t quite buy in. Perhaps because no one can quite explain what these loan packages are. (In the film, everyone asks for explanations a child could understand.) But with so little to connect the dots (or is it so few dots to connect?), the doomsday scenario remains computer-bound, bouncing around internally, like a thriller set in an Escher Box . . . or the justification for a Wall Street Year-End bonus.

DOUBLE-BILL: Maybe a documentary overview could help particularize & personalize the subject? Try INSIDE JOB/’10 to get a handle on things.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: There’s a load of fine acting in here. (Chandor casts like a whiz.) And while Jeremy Irons, playing a master of the universe type, proves yet again that no one acts as well while chewing his food, the ultimate ‘find’ is Kevin Spacey. Sure he’s hardly been off the screen for twenty-plus years, but not since L. A. CONFIDENTIAL/’97, when he surprised those who had pegged him as a classic supporting actor, has he shown such screen-filing star magnitude.

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