“Money Monster” isn’t just on the nose, it lives on the nose. It’s settled down, started a family and scoped out the best schools the nose has to offer.
George Clooney plays Lee Gates, a television personality who takes the “cool teacher” approach to the Wall Street pundit role, in that he does voices and plays a lot of movies to distract from his inability to effectively educate. Gates is an entertainer above all else. Drama ensues when one of his live broadcasts is hijacked by an armed Kyle Budwell, a young man who hasn’t so much hit the skids as much as the skids have hit him. Luckily, Gates has his producer, played by Julia Roberts, to guide him through the hostage situation and hopefully out the other side.
Jodie Foster’s latest directorial effort is the child of “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Network,” and an underachieving one at that. The film plays with the character drama of the former, as well as the grand statements of the latter, but ends up sidelining both for the heroic thwarting of a super-villain. Where the film does make some ground, however, is with its depiction of reality and entertainment colliding, which begins as a head-turning explosion, only to end in some unholy amalgam where one is indecipherable from the other. Take, for instance, a moment in the film when a newscast on a tragedy is immediately followed by another, covering a humorous meme that stemmed from the very same tragedy. Unfortunately, the reasons for this—coping, desensitization, apathy—are left unexplored.
Presented in real-time, the film does have some degree of tension, all of which is thrown out upon the arrival of the preachy, pandering third act. You know the writers have run out of ideas when the big “rah-rah” moment is one character punching another in the face.
Jack O’Connell, portrays Budwell, and in what could have devolved into a monstrously overcooked performance, instead comes out at a digestible medium-well. In some sense, the entire film is on his shoulders, as it’s essential that the audience is with Budwell, or, at the very least, understands him. And despite the trite dialogue, O’Connell remains compelling and pulls his weight. As for Clooney and Roberts, they can sleepwalk through a movie like this, and do.
If money is the root of all evil, then hackneyed writing must be the trunk. There’s a far more amusing film somewhere in “Money Monster” about how a detested TV personality becomes a national treasure. Oh well.
2.5 out of 5 stars