There’s a certain been-there-done-that stigma attached to the Jodie Foster-directed financial thriller, MONEY MONSTER. The world is exhausted by stories about big billion-dollar corporations screwing over the other 99 percent. We get it: money is power and if you don’t have it you’re screwed. But while Money Monster could easily be cast aside as the latest pop culture fodder to depict the financial woes of modern society, it manages to stand out as a no-frills thriller and a solid movie.
George Clooney stars a Lee Gates the host of a cable television finance show (think Jim Cramer) – obnoxious and self-serving (but with a heart of gold, of course). When he is held hostage by Kyle (Jack O’Connell), a man who took his investing advice and lost a ton of money, Lee, his director Patty (Julia Roberts) and the rest of the crew are thrown into an extreme stand-off with the unhinged captor that is broadcast live in front of millions of viewers.
Without spoiling too much, Kyle invested in a company called IBIS after following Lee’s advice, but when an algorithm governing the company’s stock price experienced a “glitch,” Kyle and thousands of other investors lost a lot of money. Kyle serves as the surrogate for all of those investors who lost money but more than that, he’s ultimately representing ‘the disgruntled common man who is about to lose it’ — a trope that always comes with facial scruff and military fatigue-hued apparel. Kyle demands answers from the IBIS head honcho, Walt Camby (Dominic West), who is nowhere to be found during all of this madness — which should automatically be a red flag for everyone dealing with the hostage crisis. Also, the fact that the company’s name is terribly close to the shorthand for Irritable Bowel Syndrome should be taken into consideration.
I’m totally ignorant when it comes to the world of stocks, bonds, trades, and anything associated with the terms Dow and NASDAQ. My knowledge of Wall Street is limited to my struggling checking account and that time Leonardo DiCaprio snorted cocaine off of a prostitute’s butt. That said, Money Monster succeeds at not talking down to the audience and making things streamlined for Wall Street simpletons like myself. It doesn’t require you to have an in-depth working knowledge of America’s financial machine. It’s a pretty basic story with a moral: Man gets financially screwed over by someone suspected of malicious intent. Man wants justice. Greedy rich people are horrible. Poor people deserve better. The end.
Penned by the writing trio of Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, and Jim Kouf, the movie moves at an efficient clip, hitting its beats at the right moments and providing the audience with a story and characters to not only invest in, but to be entertained by — something unexpected for a movie that, perhaps due to its marketing, seemed to carry an all-too-familiar storyline.
If anyone other than Clooney and Roberts starred in this movie, it would have been bankrupt of any charisma or entertainment value — which speaks volumes of why Hollywood and the rest of the world loves them so much. It’s as though the writers wrote this with them in mind. Paired with rising talent O’Connell as the troubled Kyle and talented actor-turned-director Foster behind the camera, magic was bound to happen.
Foster’s confident, straight-forward approach with the story doesn’t waste any time and ultimately satisfies. Forget whatever preachy, uplifting hoo-ha the trailer is trying to sell; Money Monster falls in the same category as anxiety-driven hostage situation films like Phone Booth, Panic Room, and Inside Man (two of which, incidentally, starred Foster). Money Monster is a crowd-pleasing thriller with enough suspense to make your palms sweat.
Score: 3 out of 5
Dino-Ray Ramos watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer