Money Monster Review


In 2011, Brett Ratner of all people made a supremely silly but surprisingly enjoyable “capitalism is evil” movie called Tower Heist. It starred Ben Stiller as the leader of a group of rag-tag blue-collar workers who were swindled by their Madoff-esque employer and seek to get their money back by any means necessary. Their grand plan? Sneak into the man’s New York City penthouse apartment and slowly lower his solid-gold automobile out the window to the street below.

It’s slightly more plausible than Jodie Foster’s Money Monster.

It’s also significantly more enjoyable. Ratner had no desire to preach to his audience. He recognizes his movie is trash, and as such, it laughs with you. Not so with Foster, sadly, who proselytizes from the director’s chair with a sermon as deep as a kiddie pool. The result is a major letdown considering the talent involved and what could have been.

Lee Gates (George Clooney) is the successful host of a blustery financial advice show in the vein of “Mad Money.” He gives you stock tips, you make money … most of the time. His most recent “triple buy” tip was for a company called Ibis Clear Capital. “Safer than a savings account,” he infamously tells viewers, but the company loses $800 million following a seemingly inexplicable computer glitch, and regular folks like Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) get hit hard.

Budwell walks onto the “Money Monster” set uninvited brandishing a loaded gun and a pair of explosive vests. One vest is for Gates, while the other would have belonged to Ibis CEO Walter Canby (Dominic West) who blew off a scheduled interview that morning and at the time of this crisis, sits somewhere 40,000 feet above sea level on an unreachable and untrackable private jet. So Gates tries to stall while his team works to find out whatever it can about this fishy situation, all while an unstable guy with nothing to lose holds his finger on a trigger that can kill them any second.

The set-up sounds delicious, but there’s no overcoming the implausibility nor the self-seriousness. Small leaps in logic turn into gaping chasms as the film reaches its conclusion, and along the way, we learn next to nothing, and the film’s characters fall far short of the lofty arcs the film’s writers — Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, and Jim Kouf — have in mind for them.

It’s hard to decide whether Clooney or Julia Roberts draws the shorter straw in this respect. (Both are damn short, it should be said.) As Gates, the former puts on a painfully shallow show, yet we’re expected to believe he’ll rediscover his journalistic integrity over sympathy for a broke terrorist. As Patty Fenn, Gates’ director, the latter must figure out the proper lighting for her suddenly hijacked studio show. Jack O’Connell, meanwhile, betrays his arc very early on. The filmmakers clearly want us to feel a certain way about Kyle, but emotionally, he starts where he’s supposed to finish, meaning the character never pops the way he should.

The film has a few amusing moments, most of which surround the idea that the world is watching this unfold live. When Gates makes a plea for help from the audience, I laughed at the film’s apparent naivete that such a solicitation would work in today’s dispassionate, snark-filled culture. The joke, it seemed, was on me because Foster and her crew were already a step ahead — perhaps the only time in this silly movie that such a claim could be made.

Money Monster looks nice enough, and it certainly breezes by in a quick, mostly painless 90 minutes. But its high-mindedness is a major turn-off. It could have been a fascinating satire, but as a straight dramatic thriller, it collapses like the stock of Ibis Capital. In this case, however, it’s not just one glitch, but a movie full of them.

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