I could tell immediately how it could have been a better movie, I mean, immediately. Money Monster is a hostage crisis movie where a mad man with a gun takes a television personality hostage inside the studio during a live taping. This happens rather quick, less than fifteen minutes in. I would have preferred a movie that spent the first hour being about the behind the scenes life of the slick money prophet George Clooney character, where he came from, where he worked before, how he got his own TV gig, how he evolved his television persona to patronize to the uncultured classes, how he schmoozes with TV executives, how he seduces women at bars, etc. But we live in a time where to package a movie means, LET’S GET TO THE ACTION RIGHT AWAY!
I got to hand it to the screenwriters who were probably given a job to pepper up a formulaic setup and story, and they did everything they could with those confines. After we meet the mad man (Jack O’Connell) with a gun drawn and a bomb vested to his chest, we learn some background information. Clooney’s Lee Gates promoted a stock on television, one that he might not even truly believed in, it tanked, and the mad man had lost his $60,000 investment. Julia Roberts is in the director’s booth in the television studio talking into Gates’ earpiece in order to stretch out the negotiation with this knucklehead – the knucklehead being the guy with a gun. There’s some good “improv” dialogue that Gates engages with to prolong the scenario, thus, his life. I sat back watching this, and (generously) agreed, hey, this is fairly tense.
And so, “Money Monster” is a watchable okay movie for a period. Unfortunately, there’s a pivotal moment in the final third, while the gunman marches Gates down Wall street and it’s confusing why a passersby – trying to be helpful to Gates’ situation – gets shot. Accidentally, of course, and it’s supposed to be sudden and senseless. But it’s not helped by Jodie Foster’s sloppy direction at that moment, because I feel the intended actions of the victim made no sense. Then you have a phony ultimate scene where Gates pays a visit to the hospital to see a questionable individual, but there’s no payoff – it’s just Gates and his colleague jabbering about in the waiting room – and thus, no unearthing as to the reason why Gates needs to be there. I supposed it’s a phony sentimental decision for him to be there, but alas, we don’t know. All the great Clooney movies are the ones where he plays slick, sophisticated characters. Here, we got two-thirds of a character.
98 Minutes. Rated R.
THRILLER / LATE TEENS / LATE NIGHT VIEWING
Film Cousins: “A Face in the Crowd” (1957); “Network” (1976); “Mad City” (1997); “John Q.” (2002).