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Money Monster Movie Review

Money Monster: Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art
Money Monster is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray.

Money Monster (2016) movie poster Money Monster

Theatrical Release: May 13, 2016 / Running Time: 98 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Jodie Foster / Writers: Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf (story & screenplay); Jamie Linden (screenplay)

Cast: George Clooney (Lee Gates), Julia Roberts (Patty Fenn), Jack O'Connell (Kyle Budwell), Dominic West (Walt Camby), Caitriona Balfe (Diane Lester), Giancarlo Esposito (Captain Powell), Christopher Denham (Ron Sprecher), Lenny Venito (Lenny the Cameraman), Chris Bauer (Lt. Nelson), Dennis Boutsikaris (Avery Goodloe - CFO), Emily Meade (Molly), Condola Rashad (Bree the Assistant), Aaron Yoo (Won Joon), Carsey Walker Jr. (Tech Sam), Grant Rosenmeyer (Tech Dave)

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Money Monster returns Jodie Foster to the director's chair for the first time since 2011's The Beaver and for the first time people might care since 1995's Home for the Holidays. Whereas her last film tried to redeem her friend and Maverick co-star Mel Gibson,
Money Monster stars George Clooney, a leading man in no need of redemption whose presence justifies the release of this adult drama in 3,000 theaters.

Clooney plays Lee Gates, a Jim Cramer-type financial news personality whose cable TV show opens with dancing and proceeds with stock tickers, rambunctious licensed clips, and lots of bold, snarky commentary about the market. Somewhat brash and rather full of himself, so-called "Wizard of Wall Street" Lee is untouchable and knows it. Except that during the live broadcast of one Friday episode, a young man slips past security guards with ease, mistaken for a delivery man on account of the two parcels he carries.

The 24-year-old is Kyle Budwell (Unbroken's Jack O'Connell) and he is no delivery man. He is just a New Yorker who is extremely irate about having invested $60,000 in a glowingly recommended company whose stock has just plummeted, a freak occurrence being chalked up to a glitch in the company's investing algorithms. Not satisfied with that explanation, Kyle wields a loaded gun and instructs Lee to put on a bomb vest whose detonator he keeps in hand. Kyle demands that the network continue to air this unusual broadcast live, a challenging task that the show's seasoned director Patty (Julia Roberts) accepts.

In "Money Monster", a TV show host (George Clooney) finds his show taken over by an irate young man with a gun (Jack O'Connell).

Keeping her cool, Patty talks Lee through this hostage situation via earpiece and the crew members who haven't snuck out try to keep doing their jobs without being killed. The NYPD (led by Giancarlo Esposito) are quickly outside the station's building, aware that this situation must be handled delicately. But their negotiator is soon shunned by Kyle, who instead wants to talk directly to Lee and to those watching his show.

Money Monster wants to be a tense real-time thriller, something like Phone Booth. Instead, it plays more like Denzel Washington's John Q, a passable diversion that leans too heavily on its soapbox. Setting aside the fact that it's often hard to take seriously multi-millionaire actors sympathizing with the working class being kept down by The Man, the film loses its way as it asks for far more suspension of disbelief than you can give it in good faith. You can accept a little bit, as the police strategize how to take out the psycho without having his thumb slip off the trigger to detonate Lee's bomb vest. But it's not a situation you can see playing out as long as it does, on the air, with no casualties and no relief in sight.

The target of Kyle and the film's ire is a company whose NASDAQ symbol is IBS. Its CEO (Dominic West), whom Lee had previously heralded as part of his Stock Pick of the Millennium, is nowhere to be found, leaving the company's Irish CCO (Caitriona Balfe) to stumble through a PR-choreographed official response until she takes it upon herself to dig up the truth. The company's shady dealings are supposed to astound us and the situation supposedly makes for riveting television in bars and coffee houses not just for the life-or-death nature of the hostage situation but for a wealthy corporation being held accountable by a lowly everyman, a $14-an-hour truck driver with a pregnant girlfriend.

Patty (Julia Roberts) keeps her cool in the booth, directing "Money Monster" as a televised hostage situation.

The longer Money Monster allows its scenario to play out, the less believable it gets. Kyle somehow doesn't see Lee's earpiece or realize he's talking to others. The gunman repeatedly mulls over his options,
allowing Clooney and Roberts to talk in proportion to their higher billing and salary. In the more interesting and explosive role, O'Connell manages to hide his British background and act convincingly unhinged. But though Foster and company may be trying to create Dog Day Afternoon-meets-Network, an intelligent film like the ones they grew up on, they have very limited success and most of it is in the early set-up.

Long known as a prestige actor with his pick of smart adult projects, Clooney may be due for reassessment, with this being his fourth consecutive film released away from awards season and without any serious prospects on that front (despite an out of competition debut at Cannes). Money Monster seems primed to disappoint commercially too, even with a reasonable production budget of $27 million. Only Clooney has any recent success among the creators and the film otherwise feels like something that might have been made twenty years ago. It probably would have impressed adolescent me, but adult me knows better and recognizes the folly of the heavy-handed social commentary.

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Related Reviews:
George Clooney: Hail, Caesar! Tomorrowland The Monuments Men Gravity The Ides of March The Men Who Stare at Goats The Descendants
Julia Roberts: Secret in Their Eyes Eat Pray Love August: Osage County Mirror Mirror
Jack O'Connell: 300: Rise of an Empire | Giancarlo Esposito: The Usual Suspects
Directed by Jodie Foster: The Beaver | Written by Jamie Linden: 10 Years Dear John | Written by Jim Kouf: National Treasure
The Big Short The Wolf of Wall Street Our Brand Is Crisis
Now in Theaters: Captain America: Civil War Keanu The Jungle Book

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Reviewed May 13, 2016.



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