Crime Drama

'Money Monster' Film Review: Hostage thriller blends corporate condemnation with media satire

May 13, 2016Ben MK

When we last saw George Clooney and Julia Roberts on-screen together, he was playing the lead in Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's trilogy, and she was his love interest. Fast forward a decade or so, and Roberts is once again playing the woman behind Clooney's character; only this time, he's the outspoken host of a popular financial television show, and she's his longtime producer.

In Money Monster, Clooney and Roberts star as Lee Gates and Patty Fenn, two people caught up in a bizarre, on-air hostage situation when a man named Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) storms the set of Lee's show, Money Monster. An investor in a company called Ibis Clear Capital, Kyle lost his entire life savings when the company experienced what they call "a glitch" in their investment algorithm. Now Kyle wants Ibis' CEO, Walt Camby (Dominic West), to explain what happened to his money, and he's prepared to go to any lengths to get some answers.

Convinced that there's more to Ibis' financial losses than what Camby and his Chief Communications Officer Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe) are spinning to the public, Kyle points his loaded gun at Lee's head and straps a bomb vest to him, beginning a long standoff that's broadcast in real-time for all to see. But while the police outside are busy trying to figure out a way to end the situation — even if they have to shoot Lee to do so — Patty and her crew in the control room are working against the clock to find an alternative solution, one that won't end in bloodshed.

In the scenes that follow, Money Monster more or less delivers what you might expect from a hostage thriller, as Kyle — your prototypical "little guy" who's been victimized by a greater evil (in this case, the big banks) — is driven to commit drastic acts out of sheer desperation. That being said, director Jodie Foster and writers Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf do manage to mix it up by throwing a few curveballs at the audience, livening up the drama with frequent and funny jabs at the state of both mainstream journalism and social media.

In doing so, however, they also rob the movie of most of its tension. But if we're being totally honest, the premise doesn't come pre-loaded with a whole lot of it to begin with. Ultimately, what that means for Money Monster is that it isn't so much a hostage thriller as it is a satire of modern media, not to mention a finger-wagging condemnation of corporate America. As for the story's emotional core, it's far less concerned with the tragedy of Kyle's situation than it is about Lee, especially his eventual transformation from egotistical, uncaring jerk to sympathetic good guy.

Otherwise, the main highlight of the movie is the effortless and always-entertaining back-and-forth between Clooney and Roberts; and despite the fact that O'Connell plays the man who instigates the whole hostage scenario, the movie never fails to impress upon audiences that they're the real stars. In the end, Money Monster succeeds thanks to the supreme watchability of their performances. For even though it may not be thrilling enough to keep audiences gripping the edges of their seats, one thing you can't say about the movie is that it's a bore.

Money Monster releases May 13th, 2016 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language throughout, some sexuality and brief violence. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 38 Mins.

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