Jodie Foster's Money Monster adds up to Wall Street bunkum
A flaccid financial farce, the real crooks here are the filmmakers
It all seemed so promising.
From director Jodie Foster, Money Monster is a tense new thriller set in the world of flash trading and high finance. George Clooney is the Jim Cramer-esque TV host, Julia Roberts the buzzing voice in his ear. Rising star Jack O'Connell is the young man ready to blow it all to kingdom come.
But take a closer look at the credits (from the screenwriters responsible for Rush Hour and Dear John!) and warning bells begin to sound.
This is not a Network-style rallying cry for those wronged by Wall Street, or an angry educational romp in the style of The Big Short.
Money Monster is a flaccid farce masquerading as an issue film. The tepid hostage drama turns out to be a manipulative whodunit that lets the real bad guys off the hook.
The film opens with another day of the Lee Gates finance show named Money Monster, a 50/50 blend of shtick and stock tips. Played by Clooney mugging for all he's worth, Gates tap dances through a live broadcast with the help of his cynical producer Patty (Roberts).
If you're looking for the screwball pleasures of Broadcast News, look elsewhere: Money Monster has little more to offer than glib weariness and Clooney trying to dampen his natural charisma to portray a heel (and failing).
The first of many awkward tone shifts occur when working stiff Kyle (O'Connell) manages to walk right onto the set with a gun and a suicide vest. Distraught after losing his life savings over a stock tip, Kyle decides to hold Lee hostage on network TV until the CEO of the company in question (Ibis Clear Capital) explains how a trading glitch wiped out millions.
As far as direction, Money Monsters mixes the flat, uninspired feel of a tired TV procedural with an out-of-place comedic tone that cuts the tension in all the wrong places. This is a film that, in a moment of crisis, sees Patty call a young producer only to find him testing out a new virility drug with a young product placement associate. Ha? Sigh.
As millions tune in to watch the live hostage drama, Lee reluctantly morphs into a cable news Columbo, digging for the truth behind the "glitch" that erased millions. How will we ever dig up more information? Luckily, Patty conveniently has the number of the hackers from last week's episode, who can magically deliver terabytes of data at a moment's notice.They live in Reykjavik and I think their names were Plot and Device.
Even when it comes to Clooney's character, Money Monster doesn't have the courage of its convictions. Lee starts as a callous jerk, but inevitably begins to show empathy while posing tough questions to the greedy Ibis CEO (Dominic West in a somnolent performance.)
If Money Monsters was a stock, it would be in the red long before its ludicrous final act.
Money Monster starts with promise. Take Lee's opening monologue on the mind-boggling world of flash trading. "You don't have a clue," he sneers at us. But if Money Monsters was a stock, it would be in the red long before its ludicrous final act.
From a communications officer who miraculously finds moral virtue to a version of live broadcasting about as believable as an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, Money Monster's real injustice is how it fails to deliver the goods. In the end, all we're left with is Clooney back in his comfort zone and the blame conveniently placed on a smirking villain.
RATING: 1.5 out of 5 stars
What to watch instead: Margin Call, a pulse-pounding office drama set on the eve of the 2008 market collapse.