Money Monster is strong and commendable entertainment”

by Steve Pulaski

Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a talking head on a Fox Business Network-type program giving advice and prospects on the financial market with the energy and comedic talent of Greg Gutfeld and the hard-headedness of Bill O’Reilly. He opens Jodie Foster’s Money Monster by telling us how we, the audience, have no clue where our money is and that’s humorous because we break our backs and sometimes risk our health and wellbeing for our weekly/biweekly paycheck. He claims how money, as an accountant knows, is practically numbers on a computerized ledger that is transmitted through servers and countless databases in order to have the exponential speed and efficiency we’ve come to expect with our transactions. It’s a hard-hitting monologue for a film that’s going to get ugly pretty quickly.

During an ordinary broadcast of Gates’ program, titled “Money Monster,” an unknown perpetrator winds up successfully wandering onto Gates’ studio set before drawing a pistol and taking everyone in the vicinity hostage live on television. Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) is the show’s director and has communication access with Gates through an earpiece as he maneuvers his way through such a hazardous and life-threatening situation. The gunman turns out to be a young man named Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), who lost $60,000 after following an investment given by Gates to buy stock in IBS, a company which has just lost $800 million due to a “technology glitch” in the algorithm, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

Money Monster
Directed by
Jodie Foster
George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West
Release Date
13 May 2016
Steve’s Grade: B

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Kyle loses it on air, blaming the Wall Street investors and bankers for rigging the system off the backs of the middle-class as well as Gates for enabling people like him to invest and then just shrugging off the consequences while his own personal life is undisturbed. Kyle demands to speak to the CEO of IBS, Walt Camby (Dominic West), who is nowhere to be found on an impromptu business trip, all while Gates has a gun to his head and a bomb-vest on his torso with Kyle’s hand on the detonator.

Immediately evident is Money Monster‘s narrative and thematic blend of the real-time meltdown and general premise of Dog Day Afternoon crossed with the focus on financial markets and contemporary financial moguls and bankers essentially robbing Americans of their money as we saw in The Big Short last year. With those as the foundation,Money Monster becomes strictly for entertainment purposes; a film whose bigger accusations and finger-pointing at Wall Street get lost in the pervasive gunshots, screaming matches, and stalling tactics of Gates in order to optimistically buy more time while in a precarious situation.

Despite the fact that Money Monster is, above all, entertainment for the masses in the way that it doesn’t make one think too much about how he or she is getting screwed by the rich, it’s still nonetheless strong entertainment at that. Jodie Foster has a way of bringing out the liveliest in her suspense-driven films, most notably Flightplan, and this one is no exception. The film winds up becoming a hot plate for anger, grudges, callous tendencies, and backstabbing and all of which amount into a thriller that works in spite of its ability to be easily digested.

Clooney unsurprisingly brings a lot of energy and charisma to the script as the kind of high-class and caustic character he often doesn’t have trouble playing. The surprise is how well the supporting cast handles the script, with Julia Roberts proving that a supporting role can be just as instrumental and as captivating as the leading performance, since her character practically has to conduct the ongoing operations like a symphony. Her energy and quick-wit largely carry the film’s tensest scenes, as does the energy and malice of O’Connell’s character, who is undeniably the low-man between two instantly recognizable stars. Nonetheless, he nails his role and becomes a force of fear that instills into the characters as well as us to some degree.

Money Monster is, as stated, strong and commendable entertainment; the kind that fares well in the happy medium between the medium budget spring season of film and the blockbuster scope and budget summer season. Buoyed by three strong performances and a script that is a bit of two things rather than a complete carbon copy of both, it’s perfectly enjoyable entertainment so long as you don’t distract yourself with what is really happening at your bank and on Wall Street while watching it.