I just finished reading Michael Lewis’s latest book, Flash Boys, which is not about me and Burnsy’s Magic Mike cover group, despite the title. It’s actually about the modern stock market, specifically, the world of high-frequency trading, and the elaborate schemes those traders have used to game a now fully-computerized system. The book only came out March 31st, and already Variety reports that Sony is nearing a movie deal.
Sony Pictures is nearing a movie rights deal on Michael Lewis’ “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt” with Scott Rudin (pictured above) and Eli Bush producing.
I’m a big Michael Lewis fan, and I’m always impressed with the way he manages to write entertainingly about subjects I otherwise probably wouldn’t be interested in, especially for such a mainstream writer (try getting through a Tom Friedman book without blowing your brains out). Hollywood clearly loves him, having already turned his research-heavy bestsellers Moneyball and The Blind Side into Oscar-winning, money-spewing schmaltz, where a black boy changes Sandra Bullock’s life and Brad Pitt learns to love his daughter when she sings him a song from a jeans commercial. Flash Boys is even more fact-heavy than those, with long sections dedicated to explaining the minutiae of how high-frequency traders use “front running” to drive up prices on trades in fractions of seconds. Making any kind of coherent movie out of that will be a supreme challenge.
In The Blind Side and Moneyball, Hollywood turned central figures in each book into traditional movie protagonists, which I assume will be the plan with Brad Katsuyama in Flash Boys, a very Billy Beane-like character. Katsuyama was a trader at RBC in Canada who first began researching high-frequency trading when he noticed funky price changes after the switch to an all-digital market. He eventually discovered that most people on Wall Street didn’t understand how high-frequency trading worked, or that they were being screwed, and he gathered a team of math-genius misfits to help him start his own exchange where they would use what they knew to try to thwart front running and other shady practices. It was a great book, and I’m curious to see what they do with it, but if I have to see it turned into a movie where the emotional climax is him crying at his daughter’s birth or drawing a equations on a window I’m going to start hucking turds at the screen like a monkey.