“It always sounds so simple and yet so moronic.”
For all intents and purposes, Money Monster positions itself as a movie of the here and the now. Big stars matched by big ambition. But a glaring lack of interest in maintaining tone keeps it in check. There is satire, yet those moments feel more like a lampoon vacation. There are thrills, although they’re as predictable as they are expedient. Beneath all of the hubbub and the pulp is a confrontational film undone by its own formulaic writing and substandard creativity. Money Monster really wants to make a point. To critique, admonish, and to inform. Each area is addressed, and none are explained.
Buffoon Lee Gates (George Clooney) hosts popular schlock show “Money Monster,” dishing out stock market advice a la CNBC’s “Mad Money” starring jester Jim Cramer. Both programs are circuses. In the booth is director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), soon leaving for another show. The film’s beginning is worthwhile. We’re thrown into the behind the scenes frenzy of network television, crossing cameramen and production assistants and security guards. It’s a chaotic shebang that assures a calm when the feed is live, which goes out the door once ordinary citizen Kyle Budwell (a searing Jack O’Connell) stumbles onto the set with loaded gun in hand.
Along with countless other investors, Kyle was screwed over by Ibis, a big bucks cooperation that recently went public and had been hailed by Lee as “safer than a savings account.” Then poof, $800 million gone overnight. Was it really the claimed computer glitch, or was it shady activity behind the scenes? Every penny to his name has vanished, so Kyle rightfully wants answers, even if his extremist actions promise to deliver more damage than they do retribution. With Patty in his ear, Lee teams up with the young man to find the root of the problem to ensure his own safety. Money Monster, continuing the dangerous and discrediting trend of real reporters playing themselves in the movies, asks all of the right questions in tight quarters before it goes outside the boundaries of its initial thesis statement.
Dig deep enough and you’re likely to make easy and loose connections with this film. Likened to The Big Short in its attempted takedown of corrupt banking. Fires fueled with the tension of The Negotiator. But the movie it reminds me of most is the forgotten ’97 letdown Mad City. Same trajectory, same end result, same problems. The trailers side by side could be related by blood. Despite the similarities, Jodie Foster’s work behind the camera starts strong before it is lost to the expansive storyline. The trustworthy A + B = C formula works well enough until the rest of the alphabet is carelessly added into the fold. Money Monster’s floundering sense of humor mixes with its abundance of dread as well as water does with oil. Abiding by the laws of filmmaking science, this ill-sorted feature inconsistently entertains without ever becoming whole.
“You believe in money. You don’t believe in people.”
Rating: 2 out of 5