Money Monster: Bad Tip, by Rudie Obias
As dicey as it is to use mainstream cinema to make a political or social statement about the state of our world, completely falling flat to prove that point really is in a class unto itself. And that’s exactly how Money Monster fairs in execution when it comes to story, character, statement, tension, and satire. While the film is not a big ol’ mess (it is mildly amusing at times), it does suffer from being ineffectual and limp. In the past, director Jodie Foster has shown a keen eye when it comes to building a cast and working off an interesting premise, but her latest lacks the teeth and bite of a good thriller or satire.
Money Monster follows Lee Gates (George Clooney), a Jim Cramer-esque TV host of a cable finance show. Gates is a wealthy and charming guy who lives life in the fast lane, making mountains of money and generally enjoying the life of a playboy about town. Ya know, a real George Clooney-type. However, everything goes wrong for him and the crew of the TV show when a disgruntled gunman named Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) takes Gates hostage because he lost all of his money after he gets a bad stock tip. Gates’ director Patty (Julia Roberts) tries to intermediate the hostage situation with Budwell and the NYPD, all while keeping Lee in check and running a live broadcast.
The big problem with Money Monster is that it forgets to be a movie with interesting and believable characters in a life-or-death situation about 20 minutes into the film. Instead, it exchanges tension with big ideas about the better global economy and the stock market. These issues deserve examination, but it’s tough to bring those things to the surface when the film’s gunman doesn’t seem to care about them and abandons his conceit so early into its running time. Money Monster goes back and forth between addressing social issues and being a character drama that it doesn’t have time to unfold as a thriller, which it should be first and foremost.
There isn’t an ounce of real tension in the film because its characters never seem like real human beings. Instead they come off as themes and archetypes. The gunman never shows how he can pull off a hostage situation or come off as the wildcard that can do anything at a moment’s notice. Money Monster never feels tense or thrilling when it’s trying its hardest to do so. The film later introduces multiple subplots of corporate corruption, international hackers, and workers’ strikes in South Africa that have bearing on the main story, but feels somehow tacked on and loose. It reflects the film’s tone, which goes from comedy to thriller without warning.
The film builds to an absurd climax where Lee and Kyle march on Wall Street as the people of New York cheer. It all just feels so half-baked. It’s full of ideas, but it has very little vision or expertise. The movie often goes up and down like a long day of trading stocks on Wall Street and in the end, it’s just as confusing as understanding the stock market or complex algorithms.