George Clooney and Julia Roberts bounce off each other like pros in this amusing take on fat cat greed
Last year’s The Big Short deservedly earned five Oscar nominations for providing an insight into the 2007-8 financial crisis without skimping on zingers, plot twists and big screen glamour. Although Money Monster offers a less sophisticated take on fat cat greed and corruption, it would be a shame to dismiss Jodie Foster’s fourth film as a director entirely. Viewed as a hostage thriller set against a sexy Wall Street backdrop, it’s actually a lot of fun.
George Clooney stars as Lee Gates, the sharp-suited host of a fictional TV show called Money Monster, which sweetens the pill of stock market analysis with gimmicky graphics and some bad hip-hop dancing. Midway through a standard live broadcast, his set is charged by Kyle Budwell (Skins’ Jack O’Connell), a manically angry ordinary Joe who lost his life savings after following Gates’ seemingly misguided advice. Budwell puts a gun to the presenter’s head and makes him strap on a Semtex vest, which he says he’ll detonate if Gates fails to follow instructions. With the show’s director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) watching from the control booth and communicating with him by earpiece, Gates is left in an unenviable predicament: if he can’t calm down Budwell, the intruder might blow up the studio live on air.
Money Monster requires a hefty suspension of disbelief as it rattles to a slightly too convenient conclusion, pitting Gates against a two-dimensional slippery CEO called Walt Camby (The Wire’s Dominic West). But despite the occasional plot wobble, Foster keeps us gripped by maintaining a snappy pace and maximising the script’s comic potential so we know her film isn’t taking itself too seriously. She’s helped immeasurably by effortlessly entertaining performances by her superstar leads.
Although Clooney and Roberts only share the screen briefly (for most of the film, he’s trapped in front of the camera and she’s stuck in the control booth), they bounce off each other like old pros. Clooney’s Gates is glib but charismatic, Roberts’ Fenn is loyal and gently mocking. Money Monster is no masterpiece but as a form of glossy high-octane entertainment, it doesn’t disappoint
Stars: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West
Director: Jodie Foster
Release date: 27 May, 2016