Every now and then a film comes along that you just have to see because the cast is totally awesome.
For some people I know, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was such a movie; Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, I mean, seriously, how could anyone over the age of 60 resist?
Another example of a movie with a cast that's almost too-good-to-be true is Margin Call (M). Check it out: Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci and Paul Bettany. How good is that? Margin Call also stars Zachery Quinto of Star Trek fame, Simon Baker from television's The Mentalist and Demi Moore.
It's a great cast and the subject, the financial meltdown of 2008, is a cracker.
Margin Call, about a Wall St investment bank days before the United States' economy flat-lined, opens with human resources personnel visiting the risk management floor of the very Lehman Brothers-like company, giving some staff their marching orders.
One of the first to be sent packing is Tucci's Eric who, on his way out the door, hands Quinto's Peter a flashdrive and tells him to check out its contents and to "be careful".
Being a curious guy, Peter stays up late reviewing what he finds on the memory stick and, after doing a few calculations, gets a very bad feeling. He shares this feeling with others and before you can say "hands up who thinks 110 per cent mortgages are a good idea?" the whole upper echelon of the company is feeling terrible.
Not surprisingly, the best thing Margin Call has going for it is its cast. Spacey is typically excellent as a long-serving company man who still appears capable of telling right from wrong, while Irons is outstanding as his tuatara-like boss.
Tucci is terrific as always but Bettany is all over the shop as a money man with the weirdest trans-Atlantic accent you've ever heard. More impressive is Baker as an A-grade narcissist and the watchable Quinto, who was also one of the film's producers.
The next best thing about Margin Call is the dialogue. You don't need an MBA to get the gist of what's going down and there are some choice lines, reminiscent of David Mamet's screenplay for Glen Garry Glen Ross.
The problem with Margin Call, and it's a big problem, is that it is boring. Honestly, it should be used in film school as an example of how you can take an arresting premise, a decent screenplay and a killer cast and still come up with something dull.
To put it bluntly, first-timer J C Chandor, who also wrote the film, should not have directed it. The dude has made a plodding experience populated by characters that no one in their right mind would care about.
The film lacks urgency and, infuriatingly, any strong sense that what is happening in it will impact on the lives of anyone beyond Wall St.
With the exception of the odd generic helicopter shot, the film is also noticeably un-cinematic.
Generally speaking, I'm in the minority when it comes to Margin Call. Most critics have heaped praise on it and it's possible I just wasn't in the right mood.
It's worth pointing out, though, that while The New Yorker called it "the best Wall Street movie ever made" the punters appear to disagree. Since its release in the United States in October last year Margin Call has made only $14 million at the box office and that's worldwide.
Bottom line: marginal.