Jodie Foster hops onto the Director’s seat for Money Monster, a sort-of thriller that rightfully leans on the collective charismatic energy of leads George Clooney and Julia Roberts, as well as impressive young gun (pun intended) Jack O’Connell, to bring to life a story of economic frustration, uncertainty, and greed with a timely punch. Distrust about Wall Street is nothing new, and for many it only intensified in 2008 with the disastrous Global Financial Crises, a catastrophic incident which serves as the inspiration and basis for this film, focusing in on the effects it caused at an individual level for one young man (O’Connell’s Kyle Budwell) who lost all his savings as a result of a bad endorsement from Clooney’s insincere fast-talking TV host Lee Gates.
Gates’ role, as the host of an obnoxious financial entertainment program actually titled “Money Monster”, is immediately tied to the unscrupulous system of Wall Street from the get-go, and Clooney’s slick, sleek, and slippery on-screen presence sells it every second the veteran actor is in sight. His worth here cannot be overstated as his confidence drops in and out in the face of a gun-wielding Budwell who interrupts a live broadcast by taking Gates hostage.
Budwell was just one of the unfortunate victims of a supposed “computer glitch” that led to stockholders losing a collective $800 million via company IBIS Clear Capital, a stock Gates carelessly encouraged investors to back before the sudden crash. Understandably, the young man wants answers, tasking O’Connell with the kind of vulnerable, out-of-depth rage those who have seen him in UK TV hit Skins already know is his strength. Indeed, balancing his questionable methods with an effectively sympathetic and tragic “loser”, O’Connell proves a valuable asset to Foster, at least for the majority of the film.
The other big player on screen here is Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), who is mostly seen behind-the-scenes of Money Monster (the program) as the producer, managing the situation with a relative calmness that possible for the finance guru with a gun to his head. While she scrambles to get IBIS’ representatives to help quell the situation, murky archetypes start to take form, with Dominic West’s evasive IBIS CEO easily slipping into the villainous role and becoming a signpost for Wall Street greed and cowardice, a dynamic that brings Fenn and Gates to ask questions of their own.
Thrilling with a satirical sense of humour, throwing sharp jabs at the media and corporate greed, Money Monster is a consistently entertaining film despite waning interest in the final act. Foster and her cast know how to work intensity at the right moments, leaving gaps for real – to a degree – emotional investment to stick without sacrificing the pace and tension that’s built so well in the film’s superior first half.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 98 minutes
Money Monster is in Australian cinemas from Thursday 2nd June.