Reuniting George Clooney and Julia Roberts on screen for the first time since 2004’s “Ocean’s 12”, director Jodie Foster has constructed a topical corporate thriller which attempts to combine the hot button issues of domestic terrorism and socioeconomic anger.
When a slick money market TV show host is taken hostage by an armed gunman during a live broadcast, he is forced to confront the effects his advice has had on the ordinary people who watch his show as well as confront some unpleasant truths about the dark underside of the stock market.
“Money Monster” is a decent thriller and manages to build up a decent amount of tension despite a slightly uneven tone and some odd choices early on to cut away to seemingly random and unrelated locations (they do eventually play into the story but their context-free appearance so early on interrupts rather than intrigues).
Clooney plays shallow TV host Lee Gates with his twinkly-eyed charisma turned up to eleven and there are times when it veers perilously close to “Scrooged”’s Frank Cross in terms of execution. That’s not meant as a criticism but it meant I spent a bit of time imagining what the film would have been like had Bill Murray been cast instead. Julia Roberts is good too, finding an easy and world-weary chemistry with Clooney as Gates’s producer, a feat all the more impressive given the pair actually filmed very few scenes together. The pair may no longer be in their pomp, they certainly showcase why they are both A-list movie stars (although while Clooney is undoubtedly a bona fide movie star he’s never been what you’d call a box office sensation). It’s Jack O’Connell, though, who gives the story its much needed substance and grit, delivering yet another impressive turn as the desperate victim of Wall Street shenanigans.
Ultimately, the story pulls its punches when sticking it to the corporate fatcats, singling out a single entity and individual for egregiously shady practices rather than putting the whole house of cards system under the microscope. Instead, Foster has a more potent target, delivering the film’s slyest sucker punch to the audience by showing that, once all the drama and salaciously televised intrigue is resolved, the general public simply go back to whatever it was they were doing and wilfully ignores everything else that may be and probably is happening in the corporate boardrooms and stock markets of the world. Ouch.
It’s not as clever as it wants to be nor as astutely critical as it should be, but “Money Monster” is a solid character-driven thriller with three great lead performances.