By Chaz Lipp
Everything about director Jodie Foster’s Money Monster rings false. The only thing it has going for it is a compact 98-minute running time. But I can save you even more time: if you caught the three-minute theatrical trailer, you pretty much saw it all. The trailer reveals nearly everyone viewers need to know about this slight tale (savvy moviegoers will easily fill in the few remaining blanks). Purportedly a commentary on corporate greed and the plight of a shrinking middle class, Money Monster is in reality a brain-dead thriller about a lone schmuck who made a stupid investing choice.
George Clooney delivers a sometimes-embarrassing (whenever he’s dancing) performance as cable news network host Lee Gates. On his show (its title doubles as the film’s title), Lee gives entertaining, often-hyperbolic stock tips. Julia Roberts, largely underutilized, plays his long-suffering producer Patty. A seemingly normal show taping turns into a crisis situation when crazed viewer Kyle (Jack O’Connell) crashes the set (posing as a delivery guy) with a loaded gun and a bomb vest. On live TV, Kyle holds Lee hostage while demanding answers as to why he lost all his money when a trading algorithm glitch crashed IBIS stock. Lee’s wearing the vest. Kyle’s thumb on the detonator is all that’s keeping the studio from blowing sky high.
Had Foster taken a more satirical (or perhaps even surrealist) approach, Monster might’ve been outrageous fun. As it is, it’s preachy and nearly nonsensical by the time it reaches its overheated conclusion. Without giving too much away (but to be safe, SPOILER ALERT), at some point Lee becomes aware that he’s being played. Kyle doesn’t pose quite the threat he initially appeared to, though he’s still an unhinged nut with an itchy trigger finger. Yet, even with an easy way out of the whole predicament, Lee ends up sympathizing with his captor enough to collude with him, deliberately misleading NYPD. They take the whole bomb/gun/hostage scenario out in the streets, searching for IBIS’ CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West) to get some answers about how the company lost some $800 million of investors’ capital.
That would all be fine if Lee had been held accountable as an accessory to the crimes committed by Kyle. But instead Kyle is promoted as some sort of ‘people’s hero’ and Lee as the only guy who really “gets” his supposed plight. Not that any of this really warrants close examination. However portentous Foster’s film is, the whole thing plays like a silly, poorly-conceived mash-up of Dog Day Afternoon and The Big Short. The principal problems appear to stem from the corny screenplay (credited to a trio of writers, only one with a significant number of previous credits). But Foster should’ve known better. She was busy trying to make a film for Generation Bernie, but wound up making something dumber than Weekend at Bernie’s.
Money Monster Images: TriStar Pictures