Review: Greed is good in 'The Hummingbird Project'

Jesse Eisenberg and Salma Hayek star in smart, sly financial thriller

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård in "The Hummingbird Project."

A millisecond is worth millions in "The Hummingbird Project," an invigorating snapshot of greed that examines how far competitors will go to gain even the slightest fraction of an edge over their rivals in the stock market. 

Jesse Eisenberg is all focused nervous energy as Vincent Zaleski, whose plan is to build a straight line tunnel from Kansas to New York through which he'll run hundreds of miles of fiber-optic cable. The goal? To receive stock prices one millisecond earlier than the competition, thus earning himself hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Vinny is the point person on the operation, his cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgård) is the code writer. While Vinny and his project manager Mark (Michael Mando, making a strong impression) are dealing with contractors and shoring up land deals, Anton is combing through hundreds of thousands of lines of code, looking for a way to shave fractions of fractions of a second off the back end. Salma Hayek is Eva Torres, the power player looking to shut down Vinny and Anton, after they leave her firm to go into business for themselves. 

A financial fable about fiber-optic cable may not sound like much, but writer-director Kim Nguyen highlights the human elements of the story and keeps things clipping at a fast pace. (His story is pure fiction, though it plays the details straight down the middle.) 

Combining elements of "Margin Call" and "The Big Short" — Skarsgård's quirky character recalls Christian Bale's "Big Short" numbers man — "The Hummingbird Project" is a morality play about ingenuity and the cost of excessive wealth. Early on, Vinny explains to his partner how their quest is a David and Goliath story. Vinny claims he's David, but the wavering in his voice shows that even he's not so sure.  

'The Hummingbird Project'


Rated R: for language throughout

Running time: 111 minutes