sun 15/12/2019

Money Monster | reviews, news & interviews

Money Monster

Money Monster

George Clooney and Julia Roberts star in enjoyable anti-Wall Street drama

Hostage to fortune: George Clooney busts some moves on TV as financial pundit Lee Gates

This is one of those films where it really is better not to have seen the trailer first. Much of the pleasure is in the narrative twists and the developing characters, and the publicity gives too much away. Nevertheless, Money Monster is an enjoyable soft-liberal satire on American TV shows and the wickedness of Wall Street.

Playing in real time, its engaging performances and tight direction veer from thriller to comedy. Director Jodie Foster keeps the plot moving along swiftly with some well-placed suprises and comedic touches in the first half, after which it's too easy to guess how the story will resolve with a moral message.

George Clooney plays Lee Gates, an investment tipster who hosts the eponymous show. Money Monster hits the air complete with game-show graphics and girls dancing hip-hop. Clooney joins in, busting some moves in his shiny three-piece suit and throwing boxing parries. The resulting show is mesmeric infotainment, but while Clooney's character, Lee Gates may appear to be a slick TV superstar crowing "Without risk, there's no reward - grow some balls!", underneath he's a man who cannot bear his own company.

His long-suffering studio director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts, pictured above) is tired of keeping his ego in check and planning to switch jobs. But today they have their regular live show to get on air, and headlining it is the news that a company’s stock, which Gates had tipped as the buy of the century, has suddenly crashed with disastrous results. Millions of investment dollars have disappeared into thin air, as has boss Mort Camby, played with Bond villain suavity by Dominic West.

Patty lines up Camby's spokeswoman (Caitriona Balfe) to give an interview, promising her an easy ride – "We don’t do gotcha journalism" – before muttering to herself, "Hell, we don’t do journalism period". But barely minutes into the show, an angry investor, Kyle (Jack O’Connell, pictured below), tricks his way into the studio and takes Clooney hostage, demanding to know where his money has gone. Kyle is an everyman, a regular Joe standing in for every American tempted by the dream of easy money. He believed Lee Gates’s promise that his investment was safe and put all his savings into Camby's vanished stock. Now he wants an explanation, or there will be blood.

We are immersed in a hostage drama with all the classic thriller ingredients – the public gawping at terror playing live on TV, NYPD armed to the teeth and an arrogant negotiator. Interspersed with the claustrophobic drama running in the TV studio are intriguing short scenes set in Seoul, Reykjavik and Johannesburg featuring initially unexplained characters.

Money Monster has echoes of Network and Nightcrawler in its swipes at the venal banality of television, while the New York setting and schlemiel-turned-hostage-taker recalls Dog Day Afternoon and King of Comedy. As with Margin Call and The Big Short, Foster and her team of screenwriters aim to expose the smoke and mirrors of financial skulduggery and show how ordinary folk have been conned. All the cast are excellent and there are some good twists along with other rather more predictable turns. It's a movie with a strong whiff of liberal Hollywood types tut-tutting at evil capitalism, but it works well as entertainment – as long as you can avoid the trailer.

Overleaf: watch the trailer to Money Monster

The audience is immersed in a hostage drama with all the classic thriller ingredients

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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