Arts movie review

Dig a hole, or maybe not

High-frequency trading does not make for high-quality entertainment

8998 hummingbird project
Mark Vega (Michael Mando) tries to reason with the sickly Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) in 'The Hummingbird Project.'
Courtesy of The Orchard

The Hummingbird Project
Directed by Kim Nguyen
Screenplay by Kim Nguyen
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård, Salma Hayek, Michael Mando
Rated R, Now Playing

The faster the technology, the richer we can become. This is the first idea you are introduced to in The Hummingbird Project as Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) sets his grand plan into motion: to build a fiber-optic cable that stretches from Kansas to New Jersey so that he and his cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgård) can gain an edge in the world of high-frequency trading, making millions as a result. However, where there is money, there is greed, and the cousins often encounter adversity in the form of Eva Torres (Salma Hayek), Anton’s boss before he quits to help Vincent.

While the premise seems interesting, the resulting execution is lacking. The first act of the movie is filled with Vincent hustling people to help with his project. While this sort of bartering and quick-thinking is not uncommon for Jesse Eisenberg’s characters, one can only go so long hearing talk about cables, digging holes, and buying land before it becomes tedious and ridiculous. Did we really need to see him give the same pitch to five different people? Was it necessary for us to see Vincent back people into corners just so that they’d help him progress? I’m not sure, but the whole process wasn’t entertaining.

Unfortunately, this overbearing trend continues throughout the movie. As Vincent and co. encounter issue after issue with installing their gargantuan fiber-optic cable across the US, we are there every gritty step of the way. From Anton’s coding struggles to Vincent’s money-draining ventures, the duo never catches a break, and all is laid bare for the viewers. I would argue that we are sometimes given too much unnecessary detail such that it becomes easy to zone out or lose track of what the actual issues in the process are. For instance, every time there is a machinery malfunction or logistical error, we, the audience, are forced to address it along with Vincent, even if it’s some small clerical issue we could easily be spared watching. And, as if the conflicts in the film didn’t seem superficial and clichéd enough, the cancer bomb is dropped on Vincent, and now he has one more thing to worry about on his infinite list of woes.

Questionable writing of the film aside, the performances of the cast seem to be the only things that can save The Hummingbird Project. Jesse Eisenberg plays the role of hustler Vincent well. It’s an iteration of a persona Eisenberg has proven to do well before, and this performance is no exception. Alexander Skarsgård, while nearly unrecognizable as the balding, quiet Anton, also conducts his character seamlessly, from the small nervous mannerisms to reflecting his mounting frustrations with Vincent’s overly ambitious plan.

Overall, would I recommend anyone watch The Hummingbird Project? Probably not. However, if you want to play a really fun drinking game, I’d recommend taking a shot anytime anyone mentions the word “cable.” You’ll probably be out of it within the first fifteen minutes of the movie.