“Money Monster” Movie Review


     We all know Jodie Foster as the Academy Award winning actress who starred in such notable thrillers as “The Silence of the Lambs”, “Panic Room”, and “Flightplan”, but how about Jodie Foster the director?  In what is only her fourth feature since making her directing debut with 1991’s “Little Man Tate”, Foster moves into new and significantly more costly territory with “Money Monster”, a financial thriller starring fellow A-listers George Clooney and Julia Roberts.  And for all of the star power behind it, Foster appears to have misguided the story in a way that has the third act completely run out of steam.  It’s as if screenwriters Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, and Jim Kouf went blank once they got to a certain point and never really nailed how best to move forward.  The film, which is presented in a real time 90 minute format, hits the proverbial wall early and never recovers, robbing the audience of the nail biting suspense I believe the filmmakers were hoping for.

     It doesn’t help the early scenes can only be described as being cornball and borderline bizarre.  Clooney plays Lee Gates, the host of a financial news and talk show called “Money Monster” which has him make his entrances doing outlandish dance numbers in various costumes while backed by other dancers on stage.  Apparently, Lee has enough of a following and popularity that his viewers actually listen to his financial advice when it comes to stock purchases, which is surprising since these recommendations are often presented via the use of game show style site gags like big red buttons, spinning wheels, and other gimmicks viewed on giant in studio monitors.  It never appears that anything Lee says could never possibly be taken serious, but then again I can’t really say I regularly watch financial advice talk shows.  For all I know, they may all be this way.

     The plot Foster is working with here couldn’t be anymore simple and perhaps that is why she seems to have no idea where to ultimately go with it since it obviously can be taken so far.  On a random day in which the show is being filmed at the network’s New York City studio, a convenient security lapse allows Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) to walk right through the back door posing as a new delivery guy.  Armed with a pistol, Kyle walks directly on to the live set as the show’s director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), looks on from the control room.  Before anyone knows what he’s doing there, Kyle fires a round in the air and takes Lee hostage, forcing him to put on an explosive vest and maintaining control of the trigger with a pressure switch.  Why is he doing this?  Kyle took Lee’s advice to buy a particular stock that he claimed would be as safe as a savings account, but the stock suddenly plummeted and Kyle lost his entire life savings.  So we have a situation for sure.  The responding police can’t simply shoot him because if his thumb comes off the trigger, Lee and the floor crew will be killed in the blast.  If anything, the most incredible image here is the fact we are seeing a white American using an explosive vest as a weapon to take hostages, when we are normally used to seeing this as the choice method for Middle Eastern terrorists.

     The script allows for some behind the scenes investigating of the company and it’s obviously crooked, yet severely underdeveloped CEO character, Walt Camby (Dominic West), but none of this is anymore than the typical financial jargon and tough questioning we hear about everyday in the news when it comes to the average person’s feelings about the big banks and their greedy tendencies at the cost of the rest of us.  Because the initial scenario in the studio is stuck in a stand still for most of the film, the outside response needed to provide some kind of spark, whether it be from the actions of the police or from the drama within the investment bank in question.  Unfortunately, we get virtually nothing from either side.  The police are presented as being clueless and the players within the alleged conspiracy can’t seem to hold audience interest in the way the cast of “The Big Short” did for example.

     This leaves us with the back and forth between a desperate Lee and an even more desperate Kyle, as they verbally spar over who’s responsible for Kyle’s life changing losses.  It doesn't help that Patty is stuck in an enclosed control room the entire time and is speaking with them via a loud speaker and an in ear receiver so you never feel as though she is in any real danger, nor is she able to come up with any ingenious solution for the situation.  When everyone involved comes up snake eyes in the idea department, the film quickly loses any momentum it may have had.  Once we finally get to the third act, all that is left for these characters to do is move into the realm of the completely implausible and at that point you really won’t be taking these characters seriously anymore, if you ever really did in the first place.  You may never get over the initial silliness of Clooney’s dance routines, nor will it be hard to realize that Roberts is given virtually nothing to do but sit in a control room and attempt to preside over this very unlikely hostage situation as it plays out on stage.  If Foster was indeed attempting to tell a story about the consequences of greed and the crooks who engage in this type of behavior, then she completely missed the mark, as “Money Monster” is neither compelling nor thrilling in any way. GRADE: D