Remember all those hostage movies like Mad City and Taken? Money Monster starts out like that and then collapses into a genre that defies definition. This is a hostage movie with a twist.
George Clooney plays the role of Lee Gates, a loud, boisterous talk show host who gives investment advice in a TV programme called—yep, you guessed it—Money Monster. Clooney is at his charming best, blasting charisma at everyone around him, especially the director of his show, Patty Fenn, played by Julia Roberts. Her's is the voice of sanity; she’s pragmatic and down-to-earth, the perfect foil to Clooney’s brash outward demeanour. The equation works, in a way that the rosy romance they shared in the Oceans series didn’t. They don’t throw off sparks but rather, share a more settled camaraderie.
Kyle Budwell, played beautifully by Jack O’Connell, is the man with a grudge against Clooney for wrongly advising him to buy the shares of a company called Ibis. He loses his money and decides to get revenge, taking Clooney hostage while he’s hosting his show. But what happens when Clooney realises that it wasn’t a technical glitch that caused millions of Ibis’s investors to lose their money? Enter the big bad wolf, Dominic West, who plays the chief executive of the company.
That’s when you realise that O’Connell is not the villain; he’s the victim. At this point, there are a lot of parallel narratives being developed. There’s the team dispatched to find O’Connell’s family, which turns out to be a pregnant girlfriend who considers him a loser and wills him to pull the trigger and end his life. There’s the hunt for the man who wrote Ibis’s algorithm that ultimately caused the stock crash. Add to this the sniper who is sent to shoot Clooney to disable the switch on his bomb vest. Because he’s got an 80 per cent chance of survival even if he’s hit. Okay, that made no sense to me but hey, it’s one of those moments when you realise you’re watching a thriller and what’s a decent thriller without throwing in at least one sniper?
The film bumps along nicely, making a point but not being pedantic about it. Thankfully, Jodie Foster doesn’t make her film a rant against the system although there are mild jibes at corrupt companies and vacuous journalists. I wish she hadn’t made the end so maudlin, with Clooney sharing a big-brotherly hug with Roberts while they’re watching a humorous clip of West that’s gone viral. Next you’ll have them in their pajamas, sharing ice popsicles and watching re-runs of Friends.
Film: Money Monster
Director: Jodie Foster
Cast: George Clooney, Jack O’Connell, Julia Roberts and Dominic West