Director: Jodie Foster
Screenplay: Jamie Linden and Alan DiFiore & Jim Kouf
Stars: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell
Rating: * * * (out of 5)
Fast, slick, enjoyable – and resonant with you for about as long as yesterday’s stock market movements, Money Monster has the mainstream box-office in its sights as much as it’s targeting the 1%. Jack O’Connell’s financially stiffed blue-collar drone is as mad as hell at George Clooney’s shyster TV pundit, so takes him hostage and straps an explosive vest to Clooney’s designer suit, while Clooney’s producer and Jiminy Cricket-esque conscience Julia Roberts has to keep the show on the air. Clooney’s a fool, sure, but he’s a side-shoal to the real vampire squid squeezing us dry and before you can say Stockholm Syndrome, our impromptu studio co-hosts are out to unmask the real villains, embodied by Dominic West’s grinning CEO.
It’s no small feat to keep the action ticking along with some neat reversals and funny one-liners, so credit to director Foster – tackling by far her most expansive canvas – and the screenwriters for pushing home a plot of escalating gotcha! journalism disguised as serious reporting. DoP Matty Libatique shoots New York exteriors and TV studio interiors with bracing clarity and the combined star wattage of Clooney and Roberts feels like a welcome throwback to an age before superheroes, sci-fi and fantasy all but killed off proper movie stars.
But – and it’s a huge giveaway – Money Monster ultimately buys into its glamour couple far more than it invests in O’Connell’s antagonist, who’s by far the least interesting and developed of the main characters. If you’re serious about examining and readdressing the gulf between haves and have-nots, making two A-listers your underdogs is a strange way to show it. And it’s disappointing proof that, for all Foster and co have talked up wanting to return to the ‘70s heyday of gritty, “adult” movies like Sidney Lumet’s fellow New York hostage drama, the masterful Dog Day Afternoon, what really appears to be on their mind is a more recent Clooney-Roberts caper, call it Ocean’s Fourteen.