All investments come with risks, some bigger than others, as Clooney’s Lee Gates soon finds out.
After losing his life savings following some misguided investment advice, Kyle Budwell decides to take matters into his own hands.Lee Gates (George Clooney) is the ostentatious presenter of ‘Money Monster’, an investment advice show, full of cheesy dance routines, tacky props and simplistic graphics to aid his delivery on successful investments in the stock market. Having delivered some apparently sound information to his viewers, that they should invest in Ibis Clear Capital, Lee is forced to face up to his own misguided advice following their overnight loss of $800 million when the studio is hijacked and held at gun point by Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell). Refusing to believe the spiel that the loss was down to a simple computer glitch, Kyle wants to know how Ibis managed to lose such a huge amount of money in the blink of an eye, including his own $60,000 life savings investment.Armed, Kyle storms onto the set as Lee is in the middle of his show and forces him to wear a vest ladened with explosives in his attempt to uncover the truth and hold those accountable. Left to watch on and attempt to control the situation is the show's director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), and with the help of her team she tries to aid Lee in helping Kyle discover what happened to his and the other investors' money without provoking Kyle and incurring any casualties. As the show continues to be broadcast live on air, Lee is forced to host a show like none he has ever done before, trying to keep Kyle calm whilst the voice in his ear from Patty desperately tries to pin down the elusive CEO of Ibis, Walter Camby (Dominic West).
Earlier this year we saw how The Big Short documented the Wall Street crash of 2008, Money Monster is of a similar vein, albeit on a slightly smaller scale with the focus on just one company. It ventures between the hostage situation and trying to comment on the big corporations that pull the strings when it comes to the money people trustingly, and perhaps blindly, invest in while at the same time reflecting on the influence the media has on society.
Despite a hostage situation being at the heart of the narrative Money Monster fails to portray much sense of urgency or tension, there are minor moments which come from Kyle’s character getting worked up but they dissipate very quickly which ultimately inhibits much emotional investment towards Clooney’s Lee. The film takes on more of a detective journalism quality with Roberts’s Patty working hard behind the scenes with hackers and her contact at Ibis, COO Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe), trying to figure out where the money mysteriously disappeared to.
The film doesn’t really kick off until the second act when Lee and Patty start to unravel the cooked up story Ibis are serving their shareholders and investors and it’s at this point that, despite becoming slightly more enjoyable, it also becomes extremely predictable. There are a few moments when the story doesn’t go exactly how you would expect, the scene in which Kyle’s pregnant girlfriend is asked to talk him down is one example – and rather amusing. But, ultimately it’s very formulaic and you can guess how it’s going to end fairly quickly.
Predictability gets in the way of this journalistic thriller
There should have been a lot of potential for some outstanding performances but I found Robert’s Patty the only one that really stood out. Reminiscent of her role in Erin Brokovich, Roberts instills a level of emotion and urgency which maintains the films pace. Clooney is fairly decent as Lee, drawing on the idea of celebrity and distance from the public to remain aloof and removed from the struggle of the common, everyday man. O’Connell shares almost all his scenes with Clooney and despite being the man supposed to be controlling the situation tends to leave this up to Clooney who does take a lot of the lime light from him. That said, O’Connell is well suited to Kyle’s character and works well in the mix. Dominic West is suitably cast as the slightly slimy CEO but is forced to let Clooney take the majority of the screen time.
It’s not going to blow your socks off and probably won’t leave a huge lasting impression on you, but Money Monster is a decent enough film to while away a couple of hours. It’s predictability and lack of emotional investment in the characters got in the way for me, but there is just enough tension to keep it going as well as some rather funny moments. It does comment on how social media has a tendency to trivialise serious news, resulting in a desensitised public, but that aside there really isn’t much else to be taken away from this film; aside from perhaps getting some proper sound investment advice.
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