Certificate: 15

Running Time: 130 mins

Star Rating: 4/5

A FOOL and his hard-earned money are soon parted and in 2008, many of us turned out to be unwitting fools when the mortgage crisis in America catalysed the collapse of financial institutions, resulting in an ice age of global austerity that has yet to thaw. Bankers were demonised, political establishment passed bucks as if they were handling red-hot potatoes and hard-working families paid an eye-watering price.

The Wall Street meltdown doesn't sound like ripe fruit for a cocktail of potty-mouthed hilarity and heartbreaking drama, but Adam McKay, director of the Anchorman films, begs to differ. Stepping away from the dim-witted Will Ferrell comedies that have made his name, McKay draws inspiration from Michael Lewis' non-fiction account of the housing and credit bubble to dramatise the incredible true story of the men who made a killing by wagering against the US economy.

Sharp-suited narrator, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), a bond salesman at Deutsche Bank with a keen nose for profits, is our wise-cracking guide to this high-pressure world of bulls, bears and multi-million dollar trades. However, Jared is not the first person to spot impending doom. That honour goes to quixotic hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale).

The Big Short is a blisteringly funny and provocative portrait of irresponsibility, fraud and gaudy excess, brought vividly to life by a superb ensemble cast. Carell and Bale shine brightest in the glittering firmament, imbuing their socially awkward oddballs with vulnerability, guilt and regret.

Wolf Of Wall Street star Margot Robbie sexes up subprime mortgages while sipping champagne in a bubble bath, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain explains a collateralised debt obligation (CDO) using leftover seafood, and actress and singer Selena Gomez makes sense of synthetic CDOs over a game of blackjack. We might not always keep up with McKay's dazzling film and its rapid-fire, whipsmart dialogue, but by the end credits, we're not far behind.