Movie Review: Money Monster (2016)

“Who’s in control?”

1 Stars
Money Monster (2016)

Money Monster (2016)


Director: Jodie Foster

Cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell

Synopsis: A TV financial advisor finds his life under threat on live TV when an angry investor takes him hostage.


Only the gullible, the desperate and the terminally stupid might take the advice of flashy TV financial guru Lee Gates (George Clooney – Gravity, Tomorrowland), who, between dance routines performed with two glamorous assistants on his revue-style TV show, issues bite-size nuggets of investment advice illustrated with clips from old movies.   More of a showman than an analyst, Gates responds to the disastrous $800 million loss of a company he proclaimed was a safer home for his viewers’ money than a savings account by donning boxing gloves and a robe to urge them to come back fighting.   Clearly, Gates has never really thought about the implications of viewers acting upon the advice he doles out so glibly, and has no idea of the level of responsibility that comes with advising people how to invest their hard-earned.

His eyes are opened by minimum-wage lorry driver Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell – Starred Up, ‘71) who fits all three of the pre-requisites for following Gates’s advice mentioned at the top of his review, but who is somehow smart enough to bypass the security at the station from which Gates’ live TV show is broadcast.   Not only that, he smuggles in a loaded gun and a vest wired with explosives.   Budwell sank his entire inheritance into Gates’ disastrous tip, and now he figures he’s owed an explanation as to the whereabouts of his money and the rest of that $800 million.   So, to avoid becoming the target of some police marksman, he keeps his thumb on the detonator of the vest he forces Gates to wear.

Money Monster is a prime example of Hollywood’s infuriating habit of broaching a thorny subject which will resonate with a sizeable proportion of its potential audience only then to skirt around the issue like a prize-fighter wary of throwing a punch for fear of the punishment he might receive in return.   Not only does Money Monster fight shy of making any probing insight into the lack of criminal accountability in the turbulent world of high finance, or the way that the small investor is often the big loser when high-profile blue chip corporations collapse because of questionable management tactics, it compounds its shortcomings by lacing the story with misjudged humour as its plot descends into near-farce.

What tension there is hinges largely on Budwell’s despair – he realises that he’s unlikely to emerge from the situation with his life, so he has nothing to lose, but the casting of Clooney as his target serves to dissipate much of that tension’s potential.   The fact is Clooney rarely – if ever – dies in movies like this.   Money Monster therefore follows a disappointingly predictable path which sees the mantle of villain passed on to the elusive businessman (Dominic West – 28 Days, Centurion) who oversaw the financial disaster.    His underlying callousness, which the film’s three screenwriters indicate only through his condescending attitude towards his plucky Chief Communications Officer (Caitriona Balfe – Now You See Me), pretty much seals his fate within a few lines of his belated appearance.

Money Monster can at least boast a couple of moments that buck audience preconceptions.   The most successful involves a conversation between Budwell and his pregnant girlfriend which, rather than soothing his frayed temper, simply aggravates an already volatile situation; less effective, but good for a modest laugh, is the scene in which Gates attempts to revive his tip’s stock price (and possibly save his life) by making an impassioned plea to everyone watching the live TV feed to buy some shares.   Overall, though, Money Monster’s stereotypical characters and scenarios, coupled with its failure to follow through on an initially intriguing premise mean it’s a disappointing and forgettable misfire.

(Reviewed 10th June 2016)

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