Lee Gates (George Clooney) presents the TV show Money Monster, a programme that tries to make stocks, shares and investments a bit more entertaining. His latest broadcast quickly takes an unexpected turn when a man (Jack O’Connell) bursts into the studio brandishing a gun and forces Lee to put on an explosive vest.
The man, who it’s revealed is called Kyle, is an average joe who’s been sent over the edge by the fact that a few weeks before Lee told people they should invest in a company called IBIS. However, while Lee said it was safer than a savings account, the share price has collapsed due to what the company said was a glitch in its trading algorithm, and Kyle has lost every penny he’s got. Kyle wants answers and thinks Lee should be the one who gets them for him. With the help of his producer, Patty (Julia Roberts), talking to him from the gallery, Lee attempts to keep Kyle calm while they figure out what’s going on.
With Jodie Foster at the helm, Money Monster is a valiant attempt to take on the modern world’s relationship to big finance in an entertaining form. Playing out in real-time, it’s a fun film, partly thanks to having a great trio in the lead roles. Clooney is his usual charming self, giving a rather subtle performance as a man who’s lost touch with the fact what he says has real-world repercussions. O’Connell does well striking the balance with Kyle, a man who’s doing something incredibly criminal, but who you still feel for. Julia Roberts has less of a challenge, but she does well acting as Lee’s conduit to what’s going on in the rest of the world.
It’s also a movie that wants to make a few serious points about things such as the impact of financial decisions by big businesses on average people; how corrupt and unscrupulous an amoral search for money can be; and how we now live in a world where the financial world the economy depends on is incomprehensible to most people.
That said, there are also a couple of unintentional points it scores. For example, while Kyle is the film’s antihero – a guy you root for even though he’s doing something bad – the movie also suggests its normal people’s fault for trying to better themselves, as they’re too stupid to do it properly. I don’t think it means to say that, but essentially that’s what it does in a slightly condescending way. It cloaks this by suggesting it’s things such as Money Monster making it seem easier and less risky than it is, but ultimately Kyle has done something pretty dumb. The cynic would say that it’s perhaps not a coincidence that in this film rich media-types have only lost their way, while others are either irredeemably corrupt or stupid.
However, despite its flaws, it’s packaged in a form that’s designed to entertain, with elements of a drama, thriller and even a comedy at times. There are a few moments where it goes too far and stretches credibility, but most of these moments are done with enough knowingness that it invites you to suspend disbelief and most of the time it’s worth going along with it. The ending in particular takes this almost to breaking point, as it’s very difficult to believe the police would allow what happens, but it’s entertaining as long as you accept things are taking a very Hollywood turn while pretending that it isn’t/
Overall Verdict: Making finance fun is tough, but Money Monster manages to score a few serious points about it while keeping the viewer entertained with a pretty decent thriller. It certainly has flaws but it’s worth a look.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac