Money Monster

Jun 4, 2016 | Posted by in Movies

Take a little bit of The Big Short, a dash of Broadcast News, a sliver of Network, add a generous helping of Clooney charm, and let Jodie Foster (The Beaver, Little Man Tate) mix it up for you, and what do you get? Money Monster. Going into this movie I’d been left a little cold by the trailer. I’m a fan of George Clooney (Hail, Caesar!,Tomorrowland) , especially these days where he’s maturing into the charming grump we all hoped he would, however, Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich, Mirror Mirror) tends to leave me cold, and I’ve never really forgiven Jodie Foster for being involved in 2002’s Panic Room, which kept Joss Whedon’s Serenity from the top of Box Office, both here and in the States. Now that I’ve nailed my pre-viewing colours to the mast, I can say that Money Monster is actually a real gem of a movie.

The plot centres around George Clooney’s Lee Gates, a TV Wall Street pundit, serving lowest common denominator stock advice out to the masses in as brash a fashion as he can muster. Roberts plays his long suffering director Patty Fenn, who’s finally had enough and, unbeknownst to him, is moving to another job. The opening gambit of the film sets up this dynamic, as we prepare for a show in the wake of one of Gates’ Stock Picks, “IBIS Global Capital”, failing spectacularly. Dancers are preparing for the show’s opening, the production crew are trying to find a live pigeon for a visual prop, silly hats and medallions are placed on our star, all whilst Diane Lester, played wonderfully by Caitriona Balfe (Outlander {TV}, Escape Plan), prepares to be interviewed by video as the spokesperson and CCO of IBIS. We find out she’s been roped into this as the boss can’t as originally planned, as he’s on a plane somewhere.

moneymonstersmallInto this setup, and organised chaos, we are introduced to Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, 300: Rise of an Empire) as Kyle Budwell, seemingly a delivery man, but if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know he’s about to take Gates and the show hostage as he looks for answers as to why he, and others like him have lost everything in the due to IBIS losing $800 Million. So far, the only thing we hear is stock footage of IBIS CEO Walt Camby, ably portrayed by Dominic West (Genius, John Carter), claiming it’s was a glitch with an algorithm, but Kyle isn’t buying it, and from here the story launches. Is the system corrupt? What is motivating Kyle to take such extreme measures? Can Clooney’s Gates use his fast tongue and charm to get himself out of this?

Bar the first one, I’ll leave those questions to be answered by those whom choose to go watch the film. Of course the system is corrupt, without it there would be no movie, and out here in the real world there would have been no recession. Foster is doing much the same as The Big Short did by using the ups and downs of a true Hollywood thriller to shine a light on the parallels in people’s day to day lives. As the action and tension ramp up in the screenplay, audiences within the world she has created are hooked on the drama unfolding on their screens. From time to time we begin to think they get it, and are going to be changed and moved by what they are watching, only for it to slap us in the face just how much cognitive dissidence is on show, which can be uncomfortable for you as a viewer as you realise you’re no different from the TV viewers in the film.

That’s not to say that this is a slog to watch. Far from it, the action is tense, and there are genuine laughs to be had throughout. Christopher Denham’s character brings a good many of these laughs, and is a real stand-up sort of a guy. You’ll also develop a soft spot for Lenny Venito’s cameraman, also named Lenny, as he stolidly gets on with his job through it all, for no better reason than it’s his job.

Caitriona Balfe’s CCO character Diane is also a great breakout role in the movies. Many readers might know her as Claire Randall/Fraser from Outlander, and here she gets a chance to shine, taking a good portion of the investigative work needed for a thriller to move forward due to the big box-office draws, Clooney and Roberts, being confined to a TV Studio for most the film mainly due to the demands of the screenplay. She plays Diane with confidence and intelligence, and I look forward to seeing more from her on the big screen, as she’s really come into her own.

Both Clooney and O’Connell are also excellent. The rapport their characters develop seems genuine, and Clooney plays the discovery of his role in the downward spiral of IBIS very well. It really does feel like he’s been on a journey come the end of the story, and one that will have changed him. There is one scene where O’Connell’s Kyle has been verbally torn down, where he seems like he is now truly on the edge,that moves effortlessly from laughs, to horror, to sympathy and both these fine actors play it beautifully.

The weakest point in the ensemble is probably Roberts. I know I’m not her biggest fan, but the reasons behind the weakness of her character aren’t from her, they are more as a result of her character having very little to do. She does what she can with what she is given, but the very nature of her part is to sit behind a desk, and occasionally tell someone to do something, which is rarely a good way to flex your acting muscles.


Money Monster isn’t as analytical as The Big Short, but I don’t think it’s trying to be. I think it’s more trying to use the very murky world of high finance to make a comment of the trivialisation of our culture in general, and our news in particular. The trashy nature of the Money Monster show in the film underlines the way that there is no substance to this sort of thing anymore, it’s all become much more about style over substance. The world of Stocks and Shares used to be serious business, where weight was added to financial shows by their somewhat dour nature. By re-branding this as entertainment, it becomes disposable, something for the viewer to dip into, rather than having to pay attention as they watch, and Foster does an excellent job of getting this idea across.

A compellingly tight script by Jamie Linden (Dear John, We Are Marshall), Alan DiFiore (A Fork in the Road), and Jim Kouf (Rush Hour, National Treasure), adds to Foster’s slick direction, and add on top of that the strong performances by the entire cast, and you’ve got a very solid piece of entertainment for a night in the cinema. Even if you don’t want to over-analyse Money Monster the way I have here, there is a lot of entertainment to be had just watching it. The little side-quips, the fun little plot-asides, even the supporting cast all add to a good night out for your average movie-goer, not just the opinionated blowhards like me.

  • 8.5/10
    Money Monster - 8.5/10


Kneel Before…

  • Excellent performances..
  • A compelling story with a point, without feeling preachy.
  • Genuinely funny moments in a thriller.
  • Caitriona Balfe putting in a break-out turn.

Rise Against

  • Roberts being given nothing to do.
  • The depressing realisation that this movie has a point.
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