Starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O'Connell, "Money Monster" takes place in real time when an irate delivery man invades the in-progress international TV show of a stock market huckster.
Armed with a loaded gun and a bomb, Kyle Budwell (O'Connell) wants answers as to why he lost all of his money, and he wants them now.
"Money Monster" is the name of Lee Gates' (Clooney) preposterous but very successful financial news program. He hip-hop dances and flits around his set utilizing movie clips and other ludicrous props, such as goofy hats and bow ties. He's a farce, not highly regarded by his peers, but his ratings keep him going.
Gates' long-suffering producer Patty Fenn (Roberts) has had enough, and is making a move "across the street". But before she can extricate herself from Gates and his habit of not sticking to the script yet another time, Kyle bursts onto the set, effectively taking Gates and the entire crew hostage.
"Money Monster" is directed by Jodie Foster, who has been spending more time behind the camera. Her task was not an easy one because the TV show "Money Monster" had to be shot by four broadcast cameras, which are not compatible with film cameras. Virtually every scene filmed in the TV studio had to be done twice. It required a lot of effort on everyone's
part --- and a lot of planning. The final production appears seamless, and is very well done.
The story of "Money Monster" by Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf is credible, but the screenplay by them and Jamie Linden is less solid. There are a few too many implausible scenarios --- Kyle not noticing the police escorting most of the crew out of the studio one at a time? A promise by Patty to get Kyle a response by the CEO of Ibis Clear Capital, played by Dominic West, in 10 minutes actually takes about two hours --- and he never balks?
The best scene in "Money Monster" has the police rounding up Kyle's pregnant girlfriend Molly (Emily Meade) in hopes that she can convince him to give up his quest. Instead, she brutally berates him --- on live television --- telling him what a loser he is, and he should just shoot himself. Obviously she did not know beforehand that he had lost $60,000. It's a terrific scene because it is so unexpected.
Clooney and Roberts are close personal friends and they work extremely well together. Clooney never takes himself too seriously, so watching him do his dance routines is a hoot. He has the smarmy, arrogant buffoon shtick down pat. But he also rises to the occasion as Gates when he must acknowledge the seriousness of the situation, and that not only his life, but Patty's and the crews' lives are very much in danger. It's a great role for him.
This is Roberts' best performance in years. After just seeing her in the downright awful "Mother's Day", it's a relief to realize she is still capable of superb acting. She is duly tense, never overplaying the part --- and she looks and behaves like a real TV producer.
O'Connell is a perfect choice for Kyle. We believe he's an angry day laborer who overreacts without thinking his plan all the way through. It's a difficult acting assignment to have to barge onto a live TV show, engage the real time audience --- plus the film-going audience --- and make everyone empathize with your plight. O'Connell does all of that.
"Money Monster" grabs you at the very beginning and doesn't let go. Is it perfect? No. Is it unusually entertaining? Yes!
Opinion: See It Now!
Lee Gates is a fictitious stock-picking, financial guru on a fictitious TV station called FNN. As portrayed by George Clooney in director Jodie Foster's "Money Monster", Gates is a slick-talking, cocky show host who is equally arrogant. The NYC-based program seems popular enough, but the viewing audience grows exponentially when an incensed investor bursts onto the set, threatening to blow up the station, and everybody in it.
Somewhere real-life stock guru Jim Cramer is wondering if life will imitate art. As host of CNBC's "Mad Money" --- catch the alliteration --- Cramer must announce at least one stock every day to satisfy his profit-seeking viewers. Of course, he can't always be correct, which is the gist of "Money Monster".
In the film, Gates --- looking like Cramer, right down to the rolled-up sleeves --- has previously touted a company called Ibis Clear Capital, calling it a safer investment than a bank savings account. So when the stock tanks and Ibis loses over $800 million of its value, the irate stockholder, Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell, "Unbroken") makes his move.
Julia Roberts plays producer Patty Fenn, and her performance is first rate. Forced to think fast in a dire situation, Roberts conveys admirably the urgency of the events unfolding in real time. Is she making the right call, or will her ideas backfire, possibly leading to her host's demise? After all, Gates has been forced at gunpoint to wear a vest laden with explosives.
O'Connell is effective as the wide-eyed, crazed FNN invader. The British actor assumes a credible Brooklyn accent, and manages to create tension in the film without going over the top. We never know if he'll crack and remove his finger from the detonator. The occasional gunshot lets us know he is deadly serious.
I also liked the performance of Irish actress Caitriona Balfe. She plays Diane Lester, the main spokesperson for Ibis, who flees the program at the time of the "attack", but eventually confronts her boss and confidently provides critical information so Gates can assuage Kyle's demands.
As for Clooney, he is at his best when the script calls for rapid-fire dialogue. However, when his character is initially faced with the potentially deadly threat, Clooney's reaction comes across a bit false as he cowers and whines in the face of danger. I would have preferred a stony silence, which would have been a welcome antithesis to Gates' personality. As the story moves along, though, Gates reverts to his confident self, and with Patty talking through his unseen ear piece, the duo maintains the film's suspense via the clever screenplay.
"Money Monster" will not win any awards, but it's a satisfying diversion. If you were witness to the O.J. chase episode in 1994 --- which is briefly mentioned in the film --- the rapt attention of viewers worldwide is not so far-fetched. I also found the chatter about algorithms ("algos" for short), and their role in the functionality of the stock market, very interesting.
There is no denying the apprehension that builds in this movie. But thanks to numerous lighter moments, I was able to unclench my fists from time to time. When Ibis CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West) ultimately gets his comeuppance via social media, it's quite amusing.
Opinion: See It Now!