So-so notices for HBO's 'Too Big To Fail'

Based on the book by NYT columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, the star-studded drama illustrates the challenges of making the financial world come alive - even when the future of the global economy is at stake. A sampler of reviews:

Though it tries valiantly to walk us through its narrative gravitas, "Too Big to Fail" is as daunting and depressing as its subject, a dreaded homework assignment for an audience who will mainly nod in assent when its real-life characters (fictional versions of Neel Kashkari, Henry Paulson, Warren Buffett) quip and soliloquize on the audacity of greedy investors and deluded homebuyers alike. The film is 98 minutes long and seems about 100 minutes longer; it is a denunciation of things already denounced to no lasting avail -- mainly the American dream of McMansion ownership paired with the dream of barely regulated capitalism. -- Hank Stuever, Washington Post

The filmmakers have tried to touch all the important bases, and there are possibly six lines in the film that do not prompt one to ask, "Will this be on the test?" -- Robert Lloyd, LAT

Maybe it's natural for a business thriller--HBO's old adaptation of Barbarians at the Gate, for instance--to take on a proper dramatic shape, but an economics thriller is a different animal. "This is the nightmare scenario," someone says of the threat of economic collapse, and the movie itself is as messy as a nightmare itself. All the strong moments of Mamet-esque leveraging add up only to something surreal and formless. -- Troy Patterson, Slate

Damned if "Fail" doesn't whittle down the whole sorry story into a mostly understandable and efficient movie that everybody should watch. And in a cast full of beautifully minimalist performances from superb actors, William Hurt gets to remind viewers who might have otherwise forgot just how great he can be. -- Tom Goodman, THR

"Too Big to Fail" uses all the familiar "Law & Order" techniques for creating a sense of urgency on the cheap. People never seem to just sit at their desks while talking on the phone. Instead, they stride purposefully down long corridors, surrounded by a cloud of aides, barking into their BlackBerrys. And as soon as the current plot development has been taken care of, they just snap the phone shut without saying goodbye. Rude! But message conveyed: This is a crisis. There is no time for niceties. -- Michael Kinsley, NYT

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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