Movies don’t get much timelier than Money Monster, but I am not quite sure if the filmmakers were thinking that when they made this thriller about a disgruntled blue-collar worker (Jack O’Connell) who interrupts the live broadcast of a CNBC-style financial show and takes its showman-like host Lee Gates (George Clooney) hostage in front of a live TV audience. Kyle Budwell is angry because a stock tip that Gates guaranteed went south, and he lost everything. Shouting lines like “the whole system is rigged,” Budwell sounds a lot like the fed-up voters commonly heard at Trump or Sanders rallies, where the “Wall Street is corrupt” theme seems to play so big. As I say in my video review above, they certainly do in this slick studio drama with precise and tight direction from Jodie Foster in a strong departure from previous smaller movies she has helmed.
Money Monster is riveting entertainment, a heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat exercise that doesn’t let up for a minute. Clooney is sensational, again lending his star power to promoting entertainment with a film that has something to say, playing this TV creation who is more interested in getting ratings than worrying about the results of the financial advice he hands out while basically acting like a buffoon. It all comes home to roost, though, when Budwell makes his way onto the set, straps a suicide-bomber vest onto Gates and starts making demands with his gun.
Calm enters the picture in the booth, with Gates’ producer Patty (Julia Roberts) trying to keep things under control while simultaneously doing some fast research on the bad stock deal that has pissed off Budwell. Turns out they are onto Walt Camby (Dominic West), a corrupt CEO who manipulated the whole thing. This discovery takes the film in unexpected directions, and Roberts is quietly effective and totally believable in the role.
Stealing the film from both stars, though, is O’Connell, perfectly cast as a guy who just can’t seem to do anything right and is drawn to desperate measures.
The screenplay is by Jamie Linden and Alan DiFiore & Jim Kouf, with the latter pair also cooking up the pertinent story. They probably didn’t know it would ring so true in so many ways; just last month a mentally challenged man attempted to break into a TV studio and make crazy demands on air. Money Monster has elements of a number of films from Network to A Face In The Crowd (but not on the level of those classics), but the movie it reminded me of most is Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon, with Al Pacino playing a distant cinematic cousin of Budwell. And let’s hear it for producers Clooney and Grant Heslov, who continue to try to bring intelligence to mainstream moviemaking (they produced with Daniel Dubiecki and Lara Alameddine).
TriStar Pictures releases the film through Sony on Friday. It has its world premiere tonight at the Cannes Film Festival in an out of competition slot. For my money, this one is definitely a buy.
Do you plan to see Money Monster? Let us know what you think.