2010 Running time: 105 Certificate: 15 Not yet rated

Synopsis

The recession hits home for corporate bigwigs Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper in this life reassessment drama from ER mastermind John Wells. As their shipbuilding company makes sweeping cuts, the formerly high-flying trio are forced to downsize their egos and ask themselves the ultimate white-collar question: does money bring happiness? Maria Bello and Kevin Costner add extra credit-crunchiness to the already impressive cast.

Director

  • John Wells

Cast

  • Ben Affleck

  • Tommy Lee Jones

  • Chris Cooper

  • Kevin Costner

  • Maria Bello

Review

How would you feel if you had to sell the Porsche? Let your country club membership lapse? Cancel that Christmas ski trip? Put your $850,000 home on the market?

Such are the agonising dilemmas faced by poor sales exec Bobby Walker (Affleck) when transport giant GTX gives its stockholders a boost by giving half its workforce the boot.

Having built the company with nobbut a dream - and presumably the colossal loans secured by his unsentimental old friend and boss Craig T. Nelson - vice-president Gene (Jones) feels every cut.

Never mind the money, what about the ethics, he wonders while brooding over his multimillion-dollar share options and cheating on his wife with head of personnel Maria Bello.

Despite dodging the first round of "efficiencies", life is no rosier for upper-management dinosaur Phil (Cooper). Initially defiant, he's destined for sorry defeat.

As co-creator of ER, writer-director John Wells is used to dealing with matters of life and death. Yet while his feature debut takes the recession and the injustices of the job market just as seriously, it's hard to sympathise with three grown men who are either too arrogant or naive to believe the good times will never end.

As tales of hardship among the working classes go, it's not exactly Angela's Ashes.

And while it's great that Bobby comes to appreciate the value of family and honest manual graft, it's a bit rich when the lessons in humility come from a brother-in-law played by Kevin Costner, a man who once posited himself as the next messiah in The Postman.

That said, the cast is undoubtedly the film's selling point. Even there, though, it's a case of mixed fortunes.

There are good shows aplenty, with Affleck never less than convincing as the swaggering jerk slapped with a reality check and Rosemarie DeWitt equally credible as his pragmatic wife.

And while nobody does world-weary like Jones, he's given a great run for his money by the excellent Cooper. Would that Phil's story had been given the screen time afforded to Bello's hirer-firer, who is never more than a bit on the side - figuratively and literally.

Ultimately, this is one film for which empathy - and thus interest - will be proportional to your salary.

Still, if you haven't drifted into an apathetic slumber come the end credits, Wells does find one piece of universally common ground: he blames it all on the bankers.

Elliott Noble

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