Meet Lee Gates (George Clooney). You’ll have met him or his type before, no doubt. He hosts the TV investment show Money Monster, in which he excitedly gives out financial advice while sounds and graphics blare, punctuating his every pronouncement. His director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) has her hands full just trying to keep everything running smoothly. So the last thing she needs is an unannounced interruption by a gun-waving hostage-taker (Jack O’Connell). He’s upset, it seems, because Gates gave the on-air assurance that buying stocks in Walt Camby’s (Dominic West’s) company IBIS would be safer than putting the money into savings. As it turns out, you might as well remove the two “I”s from IBIS, and that’s how the gunman lost everything and gained a vendetta. He makes Gates put on a suicide vest, and forces Fenn to continue to broadcast everything live in a scenario that at first resembles Rampage: Capital Punishment, one of the infamous Uwe Boll’s better films. But Gates turns out to be more of a moral figure than we might have expected, while the armed hostage-taker turns out to be significantly less threatening than he manages to make himself appear.
From there, the plot travels in a number of unexpected directions, and finally settles on some rather more predictable directions too. Finally, the film abandons the pretence that it is a complex, intelligent thriller and makes its way into its final stretch, a standardly Manichean confrontation between goody and baddy, in a picture whose subject matter really demands something more complex, less easily digested. The picture has three credited screenwriters; of these, Jim Kouf has a long filmography littered with action-comedies (Another Stakeout, Taxi, National Treasure), while Jamie Linden is responsible for the inspirational biopic We Are Marshall and the romantic comedies Dear John and 10 Years. Only Alan Di Fiore, a generally acclaimed television writer, does not seem out of place here. Nonetheless, one can’t help longing for the more intelligent approach that, say, Aaron Sorkin might have taken. Such a screenplay would suit the directorial approach taken by Jodie Foster, who is actually on her fourth feature here (Little Man Tate, Home for the Holidays, The Beaver). Having dabbled in directing in the 1990s, including one episode of Tales from the Darkside, Foster has taken a more permanent interest in directing in recent years, working on the acclaimed Netflix series Orange is the New Black and House of Cards in between features. She is confident and occasionally flashy, splicing in as-themselves cameos from newscasters such as Wolf Blitzer and Cenk Uygur, showing as much zeal for an action sequence as she does for rapid-fire dialogue, enjoying herself unduly in creating Gates’ cheesy show, and fostering verisimilitude with sweaty, Inside Man-like cutaways to clamouring observers, TV audiences around the world, and the police team captained by Giancarlo Esposito.
Nothing is wrong with Money Monster. It’s tight, pacy, good-looking, competently acted, exciting, occasionally humourous, and convincing. It is also throwaway, digestible, somehow ephemeral.
Money Monster is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK, will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!