"Money Monster" Review

Title: Money Monster 
Director: Jodie Foster
Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O'Connell
Studio: Tristan Pictures 
Genre(s): Drama 
Rated: R (For language throughout, some sexuality and brief violence)
Most of “Money Monster” involved a smooth talking talk show host who is being held hostage on live TV by a bitter viewer who sank his life savings into a stock that ended up going belly up.  The TV host is Lee Gates, who is played by the consistently great George Clooney.  The movies biggest strength is that Clooney manages to be a perfect sparring match to his kidnapper, managing to maintain a certain level of control despite being the victim in all this.  The movies biggest weakness if that Clooney manages to be a perfect sparring match to his kidnapper, managing to maintain a certain level of control despite being a victim in all this.  It sounds like a huge contradiction…and that’s because it sort of is.  Movies like this thrive on the conflict between kidnapper and hostage, and in this case, the hostage holds all the cards.

This despite the fact that the kidnapper is a distraught kid name Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), who manages to stroll into the TV station, with two boxes of bombs, and a gun.  He is demanding answers as to why a company that was valued so high could manage to lose $800 million dollars of investors’ money.  The TV show Lee hosts is the ideal place to vent his frustrations, since it is this show that convinced many people to invest in the company in the first place.  Hidden between these two is the show’s producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), who talks to Lee through an earpiece and to the police officers on the phone.  She is more instrumental in keeping the peace than given credit for, as she is simultaneously a hostage negotiator and an investigative journalist at the same time.

As I said before, the films biggest strength is that Lee and Patty are compelling characters and work with limited resources to keep a bad situation from getting ugly.  It is fun to watch these two manage to talk their way out of some pretty close calls.  The problem is that because of this the tension of the film is not as high as it should be.  Kyle is played so one dimensionally that he never becomes the major threat the film wants him to be.  He comes in with guns, demands respect, claims he is in control, yet somehow never comes off as particularly dangerous or uneven.  This is odd considering the cards are almost unfairly stacked in his favor.  As I watched the film I wondered if a better actor in the part (like Aaron Paul) would have fixed this problem, but I suppose we’ll never know.

Maybe director Jodie Foster sensed there wasn’t a lot of tension in this showdown though?  After all, a good portion of the second half of the movie actually becomes about finding out what happened to the $800 million dollars, and determining what went wrong with the numbers.  In a day and age where people distrust Wall Street more than ever, this story plays out pretty much exactly how you would expect it to.  Without giving anything away, this is the one time when the mystery might have had more punch if the answers were more anti-climactic than they were.  Despite these key shortcomings, Foster does show she is a good director who knows about pacing and style, which is why “Money Monster” is ultimately a tense and watchable film.  It may not be daring nor is it really surprising when you get down to it, but it provides enough thrills and greatly acted scenes to make it interesting to watch.

Parents, there is some strong language, gun violence, and a scene where two co-workers are having on screen sex in the basement. Recommended for ages 17 and up.