Director: Jodie Foster
Cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’Connell
Running Time: 99 minutes
Release Date: May 27th
The set up for Money Monster, in which a young working class man walks onto the set of a live broadcast of stock market trading show with a gun and takes its host hostage in order to get answers over why his investment crashed so spectacularly, is pretty interesting premise for a film. It sets up the idea that it’s going to be an exploration of Wall Street power, corruption and the media’s complacent role within this system, while at the same time offering a suspenseful thriller in which a man is driven to the edge by a system he believes has failed him. It all sounds so promising, so it is a bit of a disappointment that director Jodie Foster fails to have the strength of her convictions and deliver a film that is too toothless to make any kind of meaningful impact.
The man driven to that edge is Kyle (Jack O’Connell), who has lost all his savings after investing stock in a company called IBIS that subsequently crashed. He made the investment after watching financial “expert” Lee Gates (George Clooney) proclaim that IBIS was a sure thing, so after the crash he poses as a delivery man and hold Gates at gunpoint, forcing him to put on a vest laden with explosives.
Kyle demands answers from both Gates and the CEO of IBIS, Walt Camby (Dominic West). Gates, along with his long time producer Patty (Julia Roberts), promise to help Kyle find the answers he is looking for, but with Camby nowhere to be found and his spin doctor Diane (Caitriona Balfe) offering unsatisfactory answers, Gates and Patty have to dig deeper to find the root cause of the crash.
The main problem with Money Monster is that it isn’t quite sure what kind of film it wants to be, juggling between two tones but largely failing at each. At the beginning, Gates is introduced as a kind of buffoonish talisman, his show starts off with him doing hip-hop dance moves with a couple of backing dancers, while the rest of it is filled with him accompanying his stock advice with a series of buzzers and sound effects, and holding softball interviews with his guests. The arrival of Kyle causes the tone to shift, as the stakes are set, however Foster’s attempts to maintain a satirical bent alongside the suspense never really gels. For one, the script never allows them to complement each other; rather it changes from one to the other without any sense of continuity.
For all of the filmmakers intentions to try and address the issues that plague Wall Street and media, it itself lacks any real bite to have any lasting impact. It plays it rather safe, instead of making any attempt to implicate a corrupt system — the root cause of the problems in the film are solely the cause of one man, causing a sense of anti-climax to the proceedings. The attempts to showcase the effects that the financial markets have on ordinary working people, though made with the best of intentions, comes across as shallow, with Kyle, not helped by O’Connell’s use of a stereotypical Neu Yawk accent, remaining nothing more than a caricature rather than a fleshed out character.
Money Monster is a satire that has no backbone, a thriller that fails to thrill, and an attempt at social commentary that struggles with what it has to say. That said, as the plot starts to move in even more preposterous ways, taking us from Wall Street to hackers in Reykjavik and striking miners in South Africa, the film, whose own self-seriousness causes it to be unaware of its own ridiculousness, somehow manages to maintain a degree of entertainment and remains oddly watchable throughout but not for the reason the filmmakers would have wanted.