Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone’s viciously brilliant political reporter, perhaps best known for coining the term ‘vampire squid’ to describe Goldman Sachs’ stranglehold on government and our economy, has aimed his sights at Bank of America for his latest feature.
In the article, Taibbi accuses Bank of America of being “too corrupt to fail,” documenting the bank’s two-faced ways and its cozy relationship with regulators. These have combined to make Bank of America massive, and provide it little disincentive to change its ways — or its generous executive pay structure, which Taibbi finds particularly repellent.
As always with Taibbi pieces about banks, this one was scathing and smartly written — he compares Countrywide’s subprime mortgage business to growing oregano and selling it as weed — but also has its overreaches. This one came in the form of a strange comparison to a 90’s action flick. To wit:
The holy trinity of Bank of America, Countrywide and Merrill Lynch represented the worst conceivable team of financial powers to get hold of this scam. It was a little like the Wall Street version of Michael Bay’s nonclassic Con Air, in which the world’s creepiest serial killer, most demented terrorist and most depraved redneck are all thrown together on the same plane.
We would be remiss if we didn’t point out that, though Con Air has plenty in common with Michael Bay’s oeuvre, it was in fact directed by Simon West, not Bay (MyBankTracker: 1; Matt Taibbi: 0). That aside, is this the best 90’s action flick to use as a reference point for Bank of America? Is it the best Nic Cage movie, even?
The search for a better Nic Cage reference
What about Face/Off, Mr. Taibbi? In this comparison, subprime mortgage debt is Cage’s character in the first half of the film, domestic terrorist and international playboy Castor Troy, which is later transformed into something more apparently secure — uptight FBI agent Sean Archer, played by John Travolta — though the viewer knows that evil lurks just beneath the surface.
Or what about the uplifing It Could Happen to You, where Nic Cage plays a generous cop who leaves a winning lotto ticket as a tip to a diner waitress, promising half the winnings — and he wins. In this formulation, Nic Cage is the government, whose token of generosity towards banks turns out to be wildly outsized. Not so much?
Or maybe it’s more like Nic Cage’s most recent unhinged performance in Werner Herzog’s quasi-remake of Abe Ferrara’s classic Bad Lieutenant, in which he portrays a painkiller-addicted, crooked New Orleans cop who abuses his badge and gun to achieve his own ends. Despite this, he eventually, semi-inadvertently receives accolades and a promotion from the police department, and fools his family into thinking he is reformed though he is not. Isn’t this sort of like Bank of America, too?
Or is Bank of America actually most like Nic Cage himself? Like Bank of America, Nic Cage has changed his name to hide his origins. He was born Nicolas Coppola, and changed his name to hide his connection to Francis Ford Coppola, his uncle. Cage tries to pass himself off as self-made when we all know he has all of Hollywood looking out for him — sound familiar? Bank of America has been propped up time and time again by the federal government — as Taibbi catalogs in the piece — and still cries foul at any regulation from the government, as if the bank could exist were it not for the government’s largesse.
Most like Bank of America, Nicolas Cage got himself into financial trouble about four years ago over investments in “speculative and risky real estate investments,” just like BofA. His mansion in New Orleans was foreclosed on, and he was forced to sell his Bel Air mansion for millions less than he owed on it in order to escape financial ruin, despite bringing in tens of millions of dollars a year for making films of questionable quality.
Just how easily you could compare Drive Angry to a worthless 0.05% APY savings account depends on the bounds of your imagination. Still, Bank of America likely has more in common with the unhinged Hollywood star himself than it does any one of his films.
Image by Robin Santillian used under Creative Commons license