A popular finance show is hijacked during a live broadcast by Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), who lost everything after taking host Lee Gates’ (George Clooney) advice. As a tense situation unfolds, Budwell and Gates dig deeper into the truth...
It enjoyably skips around from drama to thriller to media satire and back again.
Jodie Foster’s turn in Spike Lee’s Inside Man is particularly memorable for the moment where her smirking villain is called a “magnificent cunt”. But it’s clear now that the whole time she was being Madeleine White, she was also taking notes from Lee; watching and learning, for her fourth film as director is a similarly sweaty, tense, entertaining siege thriller. And if it’s not quite as accomplished as Lee’s movie, or its other key touchstones, Dog Day Afternoon and Network, it at least gets points for trying to clear some very high bars.
A world away from her previous directorial efforts Little Man Tate, Home For The Holidays and the blackly comedic The Beaver, Money Monster is the latest movie with the financial crash of 2008 on its mind. While it’s not specifically about that time, like The Big Short (indeed, it’s clearly a present-day affair), it’s a movie driven by a fair amount of anger about the mendacious money monsters who helped make it happen, or at the very least, turned a blind eye while it did.
Chief among those is the film’s cartoon villain, Dominic West’s unctuous master of the universe. The focus, however, is on Lee Gates (George Clooney, who also produces), a Jim Cramer-like host of a cable money show. A smug, self-absorbed smirker, Gates is a smart cookie who’s long since stopped asking the big questions. We know full well that he’ll have a Damascene conversion during the course of his ordeal on live television, but Clooney — who is very rarely off-screen — nails the modulation perfectly as he realises how empty and pointless his life is.
Although most of his time on screen is shared with Jack O’Connell (effectively intense, if not quite as sympathetic as the obvious model for his character, Al Pacino’s Dog Day Afternoon character, Sonny), he also has an interesting relationship with Julia Roberts, as his long-suffering director, in which they rekindle some of that old Ocean’s Eleven chemistry despite communicating mostly via earpiece.
While Money Monster has little new to say — greed, as it turns out, is not good, and selfish TV show hosts should learn to cherish the little things in life — it enjoyably skips around from drama to thriller to media satire and back again. And when Clooney’s this watchable, and the results are this much fun, interest rates are sure to rise.
A fast-paced, entertaining, if somewhat on-the-nose mélange of thriller, satire, and drama, this is Jodie Foster’s best movie as a director. And we’d happily watch any TV show George Clooney wants to host.