Money Monster, 2016.
Directed by Jodie Foster.
Starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Caitriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Denham, Emily Meade, and Dominic West.
The presenter and producer of a flamboyant financial news TV show find themselves in a hostage situation when a young, working class investor decides to take revenge for the tumbling share price of a major corporation.
George Clooney makes for a good smart-ass. He’s charismatic, is apparently the nicest guy in Hollywood (anyone that knocks out David O’ Russell on the set of a movie in defense of his constant mistreating and verbal emotional abuse towards his actors on set, deserves some kind of award), and has an undeniable charm despite never shutting up. All of this naturally makes for an interesting hostage situation dynamic in Money Monster, where his indirect lies as a television host offering up advice on the stock market has gotten one angry working class citizen mad, along with a bomb strapped to his chest. Survival relies on using the aforementioned charisma and conversational skills to Lee’s (George Clooney) advantage while his director (Julia Roberts) discreetly in his ear investigates the shady on-goings of a business that has mysteriously lost $800 million online due to what is being described as a computer glitch.
Right off the bat, it is evident that Money Monster is a perfectly cast movie. Having such a likable star on board in George Clooney ensures that viewers are immediately engaged in the life or death situation (even though the character is initially a tool for big businesses and Wall Street), which is crucial considering that director Jodie Foster wastes no time sending the whole live television broadcast south. A gunman with a bomb shows up, but the scariest part, and greatest trick up Money Monster‘s sleeve, is that by the end of the movie these actions are justified in a very disturbing way.
Much of the success has to be chalked up to Jack O’Connell’s raw performance as Kyle, capturing a layered character who is trying to do something good out of frustration, but obviously not in a morally right or intelligent course of action. Some of his failures are his own mistakes, but he’s also not walking into the studio with a gun and a bomb just because he woke up and felt like threatening the lives of innocent people. Even if you can’t empathize with the rationale of his motives or find justification in his actions, he’s the tragic hero of the story, and a martyr for a cause uncovering the sickening greed behind corporations.
Technically that could be considered a spoiler, but Money Monster‘s strength isn’t really in keeping viewers guessing just what will happen next. Sure, the suspense is there; after all, this is a highly intense white-knuckle thriller. It’s just a little disappointing that you can pinpoint pretty much exactly how the movie will play out as it goes on, and what is really going on with the missing money. The real villain of the story is completely obvious, but what I will say is that in spite of predictability, the poignant themes of the movie do really hit home.
Amidst all the characters swearing at each other all while surrounded by guns and a bomb, Jodie Foster peppers the film with quite a bit of social commentary on both the state of 24-hour news coverage, and how society reacts to these unfortunate situations, along with how quick we are to judge the people behind some incidents. There’s even a relevant shot at our obsession with memes. Kyle doesn’t necessarily deserve sympathy, but again, it is hard to watch the movie without feeling even the slightest bit of empathy for him, which is a success for the screenwriting and direction, as that is clearly what the movie is attempting. Even Lee goes through a character arc, coming to a self-realization about how his advice can impact lives far stronger than he imagined.
Money Monster also slightly goes off course occasionally whenever the three leads are off-screen, primarily because the investigation of what actually happened to the money isn’t particularly exciting considering it is completely obvious. None of the supporting players are really interesting either, although they are well-acted. Kyle’s wife is the exception, who absolutely rips into him for his stupidity via satellite. “You cry when we fuck” might be the most embarrassingly hilarious insult you can sling at a man. Unfortunately, her presence isn’t lengthy.
Thankfully, the hostage situation is itself is captivating and suspenseful with three top quality performances heightening the drama. The last 30 minutes are especially gripping with an ending that pulls no punches, bringing about a satisfying resolution. Overall, Money Monster is a solid functioning mixture of Summer popcorn entertainment and worthwhile, socially relevant themes to ponder
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★