Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Money Monster

Year: 2016
Director: Jodie Foster
Cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O'Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe

Plot: A financial TV host is taken hostage on air by an investor who lost all his money from one of his stock tips.

Review: Jodie Foster's latest film, as director and not star, attempts to be both a hostage thriller and a commentary on financial complications, but only succeeds in the former and doesn't quite manage to merge the two genres.

The story begins with charming and over the top financial guru Lee Gates (George Clooney) hosting his show Money Monster, like he always does, when irate investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) walks in, pulls a gun and takes him hostage. He forces Lee to wear a suicide bomb vest and demands answers, as to how he had lost $60000 the week before, after acting on one of Lee's financial tips. Lee's producer, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) attempts to manage the situation by getting her crew to safety while trying to give Kyle what he wants.

For the first half of Money Monster, everything works pretty well. Foster keeps the tension high and the pace swift as Clooney, Roberts and O'Connell work together like a well-oiled machine. Then the pace starts to drop significantly once Foster tries to explain how all this happened, by tracing the cause back to the sneaky CEO (Dominic West) of the company Kyle invested in. The shift in focus from the lead trio to West's character and his assistant (Caitriona Balfe) who attempts to get some real answers (which involves Korean algorithm writers and Icelandic hackers) works against the film, and also kinda ruins the plot. If you've seen The Big Short, you would know that these things happen for far more complicated reasons than what this film is trying to tell you.

What's also strange is how Lee and Patty seem to genuinely want to help Kyle the longer they're in this mess. Yeah, at first it seems like they're trying to keep Lee alive, but the finale, which involves Lee and Kyle confronting West's character on live TV, is rather sudden and not convincing. What's also sudden is how Lee is suddenly absolved of blame by this point.

Clooney is good as always, with Roberts faring slightly better as Patty, giving a believable performance as a studio producer. O'Connell is the best of them as Kyle, the working class hero trying to get some answers. I was rooting for him the whole time. I also liked how the police, led by Giancarlo Esposito is almost a non-factor here, allowing O'Connell to do his thing.

Overall, Money Monster is a good thriller, but flawed. It starts well but runs out of steam towards the finish line. (7/10) 

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