One of the effects of the 2008 financial crisis was the emergence of a popular consensus that we’re all pawns of a global economic order that exists not for our benefit, but solely for its own sake. Fictitious capital manifests itself in complex ways, sweeping us up in its promise of extraordinary profit, raising us to unexpected heights before dropping us back down to earth suddenly and without warning. Powerful interests—the big banks, the Federal Reserve—hold our fates in their hands, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
In its relentlessly silly way, The Crash taps into this helplessness, fashioning a ludicrous techno-thriller out of a massive financial crash that, unlike the ’08 financial crisis, clearly marks the bad guys and offers the hope of a different outcome. Unknown terrorists have hacked the New York Stock Exchange and the government is forced to call on white-collar criminal Guy Clifton (Frank Grillo) to save the day. Clifton assembles a team of tech-savvy whiz kids, including estranged former protégé Ben Collins (Ed Westwick) and wheelchair-bound IT guy George Diebold (John Leguizamo), to thwart the cyber attacks, which threaten to cripple the global economy and bankrupt the United States.
The film’s plot-heavy screenplay has a penchant for punchy and ridiculous details, from lines like “We can’t just blow up the Internet” to Christopher McDonald, as the chairman of the Federal Reserve, announcing his plans for world domination to a cabal of bankers at an abandoned fairground. While none of this makes for very convincing drama, it does often make for a campy good time. It helps that director Aram Rappaport applies a lively, cyber-thriller aesthetic that almost overcomes the fact that roughly half the film consists of people shouting at each other in front of computer screens. With its restlessly shaky camerawork and jagged edits, The Crash plays like a techie young cousin to brawnier, higher-budgeted action fare like Taken or the Bourne films, sprinting its way through an incredible amount of narrative without getting bogged down in the niceties of plausibility or logic.
The Crash may be too preposterous to take seriously, but at least Rappaport trains his sights on the right enemies. The film offers a cartoon vision of the contemporary order, one based in wicked conspiracies and individual bad actors, where plutocrats sit around and laugh about how “the people are too stupid to know how to spend their money.” And yet, in its likably lunk-headed way, it taps into a populist anger that adds some bite to its goofy thrills.