Money Monster (2016)

  • Time: 95 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Jodie Foster
  • Cast: George Clooney, Jack O’Connell, Julia Roberts


In the real-time, high stakes thriller Money Monster, George Clooney and Julia Roberts star as financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty, who are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor who has lost everything (Jack O’Connell) forcefully takes over their studio. During a tense standoff broadcast to millions on live TV, Lee and Patty must work furiously against the clock to unravel the mystery behind a conspiracy at the heart of today’s fast-paced, high-tech global markets.


  • (RATING: ☆☆☆½ out of 5)


    IN BRIEF: At times preposterous but always engaging, the film succeeds in making its talented cast work overtime to hide its glitches.
    GRADE: B-

    SYNOPSIS: An angry gunman takes over a television studio and wants answers.

    JIM’S REVIEW: In 1976, director Sidney Lumet and writer Paddy Chayefsky’s Academy-Award winning satire, Network, skewered television with his unique view on capitalism, political unrest, and corporate greed. At that time, the film bemoaned our national obsession with celebrity worship, commentary substituting as news, the fine line between scripted and reality shows, and actual violence seen on the tube. Back then, these mad-as-hell events seemed too absurd and improbable to occur, but the film became a self-fulfilling prophesy of our chaotic world.

    Also back then came a film by another Sidney, Lumet that is, who created a terrific thriller about a desperate man whose botched robbery attempt soon becomes a media circus. Al Pacino stars and gives a great performance in this based on a true event police drama entitled Dog Day Afternoon. (By the way, if you haven’t seen this two 70’s films, make it a point to do so.)

    Which takes us to director Jodie Foster’s Money Monster, a film hybrid that never touches the brilliant observances of Network or the realistic excitement of Dog Day Afternoon but still uses some of their concepts in a more conventional yet effective way. Perhaps the screenplay-by-committee team of Jamie Linden, Alan DiFlore, and Jim Kouf distilled too many ideas in honoring those films, as the film starts off so promisingly before it settles into a standard crime drama.

    Money Monster goes about its business and has a nice tension between the three principle actors, but at about the halfway mark, it descends into pure melodrama and lets predictability be its guide. The plot begins to strain credibility with its images of this instant televised coverage unfolding as a global event and especially with Kyle’s desperate get-rich scheme to try to diffuse the crisis, a true glitch in the film’s narrative structure and believability factor.

    George Clooney, in a strong performance, plays Lee Gates, a Jim Cramer clone whose rapid fire television advice and colorful patter on his financial information show has unhinged Kyle Budwell, a madder-than-hell follower and investor (Jack O’Connell) who now has lost everything in the stock market and is literally looking for payback. Seeing this crisis unfold is Lee’s producer, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts). As she tries to contain this explosive hostage situation, we watch both captor and captive interact and bond.

    Ms. Foster’s direction is assured and solid. She taps into today’s anger issues with Wall Street and aims her barbs at Big Business while keeping the action moving at a brisk pace. She also wisely assembled a fine cast of actors to heighten the suspense.

    Mr. Clooney uses his charismatic good looks and acting prowess to show us a flawed man who must call on his inner strength to survive. Ms. Roberts, in a more supporting part, creates a straight-forward no-nonsense professional who truly values her partner.
    Their chemistry is the real thing. Mr. O’Connell brings out the frustration and confusion of his character well, although his Brooklyn accent is laid on a bit thick. Lending fine support are Dominic West, Christopher Dunham, Lenny Venito, Emily Meade, and Caitriona Balfe who emits a real star quality on screen.

    In Money Monster, we are still mad-as-hell, or just plain crazy mad. See for yourself.

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  • With last year’s Secret in Their Eyes and this year’s Money Monster (my latest review), Julia Roberts has managed to truly become an annoying screen presence. Yes we all know she won an Oscar. But scene after scene of her talking in George Clooney’s earpiece (he plays a boob tube host, she plays his executive producer) literally feels like nails on a chalkboard. She’s part of the problem, not the solution. Oh I almost forgot, her Secret in Their Eyes and “Monster” also translate into all things USA Network (that means they feel made for TV). Hmm, that can’t be good.

    Anyway, Money Monster with its reminisce of The Truman Show (reality television) and 2002’s Phone Booth (similar running times along with the whole hostage diegesis thing) is directed by famed actress, Jodie Foster. She has made four films of which I haven’t seen the other three. Whereas “Truman Show” and “Booth” had a sizable amount of suspense and absorbing moments, “Monster” fails to generate any real tension. Hey, it’s not all Foster’s fault. She moves things along at a decent clip and the editing by Matt Chesse (World War Z, Machine Gun Preacher) allows the film to sort of earn its minimal twists and turns. No the complications here arise from the silly overacting of the antagonist (Jack O’Connell as Kyle Budwell), the silly overacting of his pregnant girlfriend (played by Emily Meade), the injection of out of place humor, the extras in “Monster” that seem expressionless, and of course, Roberts. In all honesty, this is a thriller and I should have left the theater shaken. Instead, my fingernails were intact, my resting heart rate perceived to be like 60, and I just felt a little meh. Result: A mediocre flick that feels slightly dated.

    Taking place in New York City and presented by TriStar Pictures, Money Monster chronicles television personality, Lee Gates (Clooney). He anchors a show called well, “Money Monster”. During one of Lee’s live broadcasts, a poverty-ridden, disgruntled investor (Kyle Budwell) infiltrates the set and puts a gun to Lee’s head (talk about a weak security detail). He wants answers and demands that the cameras keep rolling. He then puts an explosive belt (or vest) on Gates and tells him that if he lets go of the trigger, Gates will blow up along with everyone else in the building. You see Gates gave Budwell some bad investment tips a while ago. Budwell lost all his savings on the advice of a broadcast where Gates told his audience to put all their dough into IBIS stocks (it’s a fictional company I guess). Watch for a couple of segments where the 55-year old Clooney dances to some rap music at the beginning of his show (I gotta admit, it’s pretty cringe-inducing). Also, look out for amusing references to YouTube and a screenplay (by three writers) littered with almost nothing but the F word.

    In conclusion, you know that Food Network host that constantly says the approving phrase, “that’s money” (in case you’ve been living in a cave, it’s Guy Fieri). Well in terms of 2016’s Money Monster, “money” it surely ain’t. Rating: 2 stars.

    Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

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  • Money Monster stars George Clooney as Lee Gates, a shameless showman masquerading as a cable news financial expert. Dispensing advice as sound bites, he bolsters his bluster wit hip-hop backup dancers, corny sound effects and campy clips from horror movies. He’s not exactly a fraud, but his ego has made him too comfortable to do anything more than the needful.

    It’s business as usual for Lee and his long-suffering producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) as they prepare for the day’s live taping. The top story concerns Ibis Clear Capital, a company that has somehow lost $800 million of capital due to an algorithmic glitch. The company’s corporate communications officer Diane Lester (Outlander’s Caitriona Balfe) is there via satellite with her list of talking points to smooth things over. Lee is ready, what does he have to worry about when Patty always feeds him his lines and keeps him under control via his earpiece. Everything is copacetic until Patty notices a hoodied figure lurking in the wings on one of her monitors.

    The mystery man is Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), a young working-class man from Queens who, based on Lee’s advice to “buy, buy, buy” Ibis stock, has lost his entire life savings. He’s mad and he’s not going to take it anymore. Forcing Lee into a bomb vest and brandishing a gun in one hand and a dead-man’s switch in another, Kyle orders Patty to keep the cameras rolling or he’ll blow them all to kingdom come. This is the situation they will all be in until someone from Ibis, preferably CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West), provides Kyle with a satisfactory explanation for the computer glitch.

    Once all the players are in place, Money Monster becomes a symphony of shouts and whispers and a prime example of how several components – Matthew Libatique’s elegant camerawork, Matt Chesse’s rat-a-tat editing, and Jodie Foster’s streamlined direction – harmonise to create an unflagging rhythm of activity. Money Monster may buckle under closer inspection – it’s not quite as damning as it wants to be, the plot is preposterous at its root, and its comic sensibilities are schizophrenic – but this is an extremely well put together film.

    The script by Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf certainly has plenty to say about how the media aids and abets corporations’ spin control on their malfeasance and how those who report the story may only realise their own complicity and moral obligation once they become a part of that story. A nod to Haskell Wexler’s final image in Medium Cool would suggest that everyone, reporters and their audiences alike, bears a moral responsibility to question those in power. Yet it also (un)intentionally posits that nothing truly exists unless it’s on camera. Films like Medium Cool and Network continue to be the modern-day benchmarks for the sociopolitically-minded work that Money Monster aspires to be, but those films stabbed with daggers and not butter knives. Money Monster has several sly moments – when Patty’s instincts kick in and she directs a cameraman to move around Kyle for a better angle, when Kyle’s pregnant girlfriend (Emily Meade) is brought in to intervene and instead hilariously shreds Kyle to pieces – that provide the sting of a million paper cuts and help to off-set more risible clunkers like when one man reveals himself to be married when he tells his mistress, “You know me better than my wife!”

    Though Network is the obvious touchstone, Money Monster is closer in spirit to Howard Hawks’ 1940 screwball comedy, His Girl Friday – so close, in fact, that one could mistake it for an updated re-working. In Hawks’ film, Cary Grant’s Walter Burns is a newspaper editor who does everything he can to convince ex-wife and star reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) from leaving her post and settling down with her bland soon-to-be husband. In Money Monster, Patty is about to fly out of the cuckoo’s nest for a job where she presumably won’t have to deal with a spoiled man-child. Lee may not orchestrate the chaos as Walter Burns does, but both high-pressure situations serve to prove that no one knows these particular men so well as these particular ladies. Of course, chemistry helps and though Clooney and Roberts spend most of the movie apart, they feel even more connected due to their relaxed and natural rapport.

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  • Like Spotlight, Money Monster revives the lost ideal of responsible, investigative journalism. Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a TV showman who does vaudeville acts to flog his financial coverage. “We don’t even do journalism,” his sharp producer (Julia Roberts) admits. Gates initially embodies the modern media’s — like the government’s — sellout to corporate America. Then his cocooned complacency is upset by the invasion by a threatening bomber outraged that Gates’s glib recommendation caused the man’s — and many other helpless schnooks’ — financial ruin.
    As the world watches Kyle Budwell’s siege their stunned sympathy catches the frustration and rage that fuel the Sanders and Trump revolutions. The corrupt business executive Walt Camby steals north of $80,000,000 to finance an African adventure while his trusting shareholders are left broke an broken. In a comic replay of the citizens’ impotence, a staffer tests a new erectile cream — but is prematurely rushed away on assignment. For the showman, of course, courage in investing is imaged as impressive balls.
    As his name suggests Gates proves to be a pathway. He develops some sympathy for his attacker, especially after the boy’s pregnant girlfriend rages at him instead of pleading for his survival. The showbiz team turns serious when a friendly network of hackers exposes Camby’s lies and fraud. Gates is determined to get Kyle some answers, to justify his campaign. In the end he does, but he can’t save the lad’s life.
    The film operates on several levels of reversal. As the financial “journalist” plays showbiz the usual array of real newsmen, like the ubiquitous Wolf Blitzer, show up as themselves. Apparently no one has told them that if they play fictional versions of themselves in Hollywood fictions they squander whatever credibility they may have had on their own news shows. The very casting proves the film’s starting thesis: Americans are merely entertained where they need to be informed.
    The reversal of the pregnant girl’s usually sentimental appeal to her man parallels the film’s overall sense of an America in which normal loyalties have been lost to rabid self-interest. The casting plays a romantic twist on this. Clooney and Roberts in a movie, that promises scenes of electric romance. But no, in the bulk of their scenes they aren’t even together, just shot and framed separately as she communicates from the production booth to his earpiece. They connect but are separated, an emblem of a fractured union, a fractured country. Only at the end do they meet. She abandons her new job after he admitted his need for her. That adds a romantic tinge to the illusion of justice restored.
    And it is just an illusion. Villain Camby will be investigated but as he says, he didn’t break any law when he exploited the corrupt system. Remembering how all the real-life villains behind the mortgage calamity went scot-free, we have little hope he will suffer proper punishment here. And after a montage of saddened faces, the representative citizens shaken by the boy’s needless killing, the normal life of games and anodynes resumes: a guy resumes his bar game of fusball. Emotions give way to an automaton.
    The film delights in reversals. When Gates twigs to the fact that the FBI are trying to shoot him, he uses the terrorist as his shield to get from the studio to the Camby interview. In that irony we’re reminded you can’t tell the good guys from the bad any more. Trump is counting on that.

  • Unlike The Big Short which made finding out about Wall Street interesting, Money Monster works on how those losses can affect the people. In the end it’s a more traditional crime story set in the world of Wall Street but it’s also a very good picture.
    Jamie Linden, Alan DeFore, and Jim Kouf have written a screenplay that is tight and leads you from point A to B to C and so forth until the end that you’ll wish ended differently. Director Jodie Foster has kept the pace moving even though most of the movie is on a single set in a TV studio. She keeps the screen interesting to watch.
    George Clooney plays Lee Gates, the pontificator of a stocks and bonds TV show. Like many of his breed he speaks as if he knows but, with today’s computer driven buying and selling, he is only guessing. Clooney’s character is officious and self-centered as the film begins but that changes. Julia Roberts plays Patty Fenn, the director of the TV show. She sees right through Gates’s but knows what sells. Jack O’Connell plays Kyle Budwell, a young man who inherited a small chunk of money when his mother died and, thinking he could make some more for the baby that he and his girlfriend are having, invests it according to what Gates’s hyperbole says is best. It’s not even close to good and when no one can or will explain what happened to Kyle he invades the studio to force the issue and get some answers. As with any movie this good, there can’t be a weak link and, with the action moving around these three, there isn’t. All three support their characters with honesty and believability as emotions shift and the truth is revealed.
    Supporting them are actors who make the term supporting mean something. Dominic West plays Walt Camby the CEO of the company that lost all that money. I can’t say anything more other than he does his character and the plot justice and then some. Caitriona Balfe plays Diane Lester who works with Camby but has no idea what actually happened to the money. It is nice to see a woman in a supporting role where she actually supports and isn’t just a pretty face. And Balfe does her job very well. Christopher Denham plays the comic relief in the story and is very funny while staying very much in the plot. Lenny Venito plays a cameraman who is going to see the story through to the end even if it kills him.
    I give Money Monster 4 chunks of hubris out of 4. It may or may not end the way you want it but getting there is quite a ride and well worth the time in the movie theater.

  • Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a Wall Street guru who picks hot stocks as host of the television show “Money Monster.” During a live broadcast, disgruntled investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) storms onto the set and takes Gates hostage. He tells Gates that he lost everything on one of his tips. As Gates tries to plead with Budwell, he’s also using an earpiece to communicate with his longtime producer, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) in the control room. Together they must figure out a way to defuse the situation and disarm Kyle Budwell.

    One aspect this film isn’t lacking is star power featuring A-listers George Clooney, Julia Roberts and director Jodie Foster. If that wasn’t enough (for me it is and should be for anyone), it also comes to us at a opportune time with the world still under financial crisis. This theme started with The Big Short and is still the case now. So people may relate to the man who stormed the financial show which could be one of its main drawing points. Some may want to see the so-called financial “talking heads” getting their comeuppance.

    The film wastes no time clocking in at 98 minutes. We are introduced to the dynamic between Gates and Fenn. They had great chemistry here, and it probably would not have worked as well if they weren’t Clooney or Roberts in the roles. Their relationship felt real and believable.

    The third part of the trio here was the disgruntled investor named Kyle Budwell (O’Connell). He arrived a little too abruptly here, which also speaks to the film’s short running time. His character could have been fleshed out a little more to give greater weight to his motives, but that’s just a minor gripe. What we receive is still clear enough, but it could have gone further; we never really got a true sense of how this hurt him personally. Despite that, he still came off as very likeable and people could easily relate to him for reasons previously mentioned.

    Not only did Clooney and Roberts have great chemistry, Clooney and O’Connell had great chemistry as well — a vital component to the film as Gates and Budwell spent a bulk of the film together. Gates starts off as an arrogant blowhard, but wains away as his life becomes compromised. His character progression was compelling to watch. He went from trying to save his own life to genuinely caring for Budwell. His compassion leads Gates to look within himself to understand how he and his TV persona are perceived. Budwell never waned in his search for answers as nothing was ever good enough. This forced the film to dig further and further making the film more intriguing.

    Of course we all know how it was going to end, but the film still remained very watchable as it was full of suspense and intrigue while trying to remain honest. Don’t expect this one to explain the financial crisis as a whole since the film never goes into it with too much depth. While the film has intense moments, it also has some lighter moments helping to make things more grounded.

    What could have ended up just okay and cliche was elevated by the three lead performances of Clooney, Roberts and O’Connell. Overall, this was a great, suspenseful film led by great performances but still doesn’t go as far as it could have.

    Score: 8.5/10

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