Synopsis: Financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor takes over their studio.
Release Date: May 13, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Crime, Drama
Jodie Foster’s Money Monster has no right being as entertaining as it is. With a plot this formulaic, in which a financial TV personality is held hostage by a disgruntled blue collar investor, few movies could have found a way to surprise, let alone entertain. And yet, Money Monster defies the odds and somehow comes out mostly okay. The film isn’t without its hiccups, and there are plenty of questionable choices throughout, but for a mid-level thriller it works. In fact, sometimes it’s even completely engrossing.
The basic framework of Money Monster revolves around that hostage situation. George Clooney (The Ides of March) plays Lee Gates, one-part Jim Cramer and one-part.well, George Clooney. Gates has made a name for himself as the laughing stock of his TV audience and his peers. He’s the type of guy who has a daily segment called “Stock Pick of the Millennium.” His advice has likely made his viewers a ton of money, but lost them just as much, if not more. And in the case of Kyle Budwell (Unbroken‘s Jack O’Connell), those losses are too hard to bear. So, with Gates strapped to a bomb and a TV studio filled with crewmembers, led by show director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts from Larry Crowne), everyone is forced to watch as Clooney’s character pleads for his life.
Expectedly, Money Monster follows a predictable path, as Budwell becomes increasingly more unhinged. However, what isn’t expected is the way in which the film handles each familiar plot point; specifically, how it tends to take things in different directions. For example, the way in which the film deals with its hostage negotiator is the furthest thing from by the numbers. For all intents and purposes, Clooney’s character is our hostage negotiator, and our mystery solver at the same time.
Unfortunately, the why of it all in Money Monster isn’t nearly as satisfying as the set-up and execution. The film telegraphs its Wall Street corruption through line from the very first scene, and in that regard it follows a very predictable path. It’s really the journey that makes Money Monster worth recommending, albeit with some caveats. The performances are all passable for the subject matter, and the film is well constructed, competently paced, and it has a clear vision. Few of those elements are what anyone would call exceptional, but Foster clearly knows her way around a camera.
In less seasoned or confident hands, Money Monster could have easily been a forgettable summer movie drama – a by-the-numbers tale that aspires to some bigger political message and flounders under its own weight. Instead, the film Foster puts together is an agenda-less thriller built to entertain. It’s leading actors carry the weight of the self-contained story, and the writing helps keep things moving along without feeling too boring. Yes, it has its weak points, but for an afternoon matinee, Money Monster has more to offer than most of its contemporaries.
While most will flock to Money Monster to see Clooney and Roberts on-screen (note: they don’t actually spend much screen time together), the real standout of the film is Jack O’Connell. He plays Kyle Budwell as both unhinged and restrained, a man who is desperate but not foolish. Budwell is the type of character that can be easily swayed by Gates’ TV bravado and then firing a gun into the air within the same scene. The entire film hinges on O’Connell’s performance being convincing on multiple levels, and the up-and-coming actor is superb in the role. Clooney and Roberts, on the other hand, are fine as Gates and Fenn, but nothing worth writing home about.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jodie Foster
- Producer(s): Lara AlameddineGeorge ClooneyDaniel DubieckiGrant Heslov
- Screenwriter(s): Jamie LindenAlan DiFioreJim Kouf
- Cast: George Clooney (Lee Gates)Julia Roberts (Patty Fenn)Jack O’Connell (Kyle Budwell) Dominic West (Walt Camby)Caitriona Balfe (Diane Lester)Giancarlo Esposito (Captain Powell)Christopher Denham (Ron Sprecher)Chris Bauer (Lt. Nelson)Dennis Boutsikaris (Avery Goodloe CFO)Emily Meade (Molly)Condola Rashad (Bree the Assistant)Lenny Venito (Lenny the Cameraman)
- Editor(s): Matt Chesse
- Cinematographer: Matthew Libatique
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Susan Lyall
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Dominic Lewis
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA