I’m not sure what movie film critics were watching when they went and sat down for 98 minutes to see Jodie Foster’s Mone Monster because sort of bringing out the knives, sharpening them hungrily, and filleting the thing until it was brisket, they basically savaged it. Personally? I don’t think I saw the reinvention of the wheel. What I did see was a tense little picture that goes by the route of many other hostage pictures, where an everyman gets pushed to the limit and has no other means to express his pain but to lash out and hope someone will listen.
This is the picture that we don’t like to see, that we’d rather not see. We don’t like to see people trampled and chewed by the system, but it happens, all the time. Just last December The Big Short exposed the fiasco that became the housing bubble which consumed an entire nation of homeowners vying for the American Dream and woke up one morning seeing that it had turned into an impossible nightmare. Countless were left homeless and have still not fully recovered, and who’s been convicted? Not a single person. [Iceland did much better, but then again, that’s another story — you may want to check Michael Moore’s documentary Where to Invade Next.
Lee Gates (George Clooney) is that TV personality you love to hate. Modeled after Jim Cramer of Mad Money, his show — Money Monster — is loud, rambunctious, with dancers and a lot of flair. He speaks in aggressive, super-self confident terms and knows what stocks are in, which ones are out. He wants you to buy and buy hard, or sell and sell equally hard. No time to waste, you either can move to the level of his manic energy or just GTFO. He’s self-centered, bossy, and has little to none of our sympathies.
So attuned to the cameras and his own hype is Gates that he doesn’t — and we almost don’t — notice a truck pulling into the TV station. Foster cuts back and forth from this innocuous scene to that of Gates to that of the show’s producer (Julia Roberts) who at first can’t quite identify who’s the guy holding two boxes and advancing onto the set while Gates rattles away. Just before you can blink your eyes, the man, Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), is on stage, shots are fired, and a tense situation has commenced.
Even then it shows how divorced we can be from what’s a reality show act to what the real thing is: it takes people a little more to realize what’s happening. In the meantime, Kyle begins demanding that they show a clip from March 6 where Gates had sang the praises of this stock from Ibis Cleap Capital (ICC) that he had said could not go wrong. Turns out, it did, and now Kyle is out 60 grand — his entire life savings — but it becomes a little more complicated than it looks. In asking an ICC representative, Diane Lester (Catriona Balfe) who was also a panelist on the show to explain what is going on, she is unable to produce an explanation . . . or the company’s CEO (Dominic West) who is MIA, along with 800 million dollars.
Foster does a pretty good job in bringing Money Monster to vivid life even though she doesn’t attempt complicated shots to enhance suspense or doesn’t vie for pushing the story over the edge, to its minor detriment. Yes, the story is predictable to a fault as it pays homage to two of the great Sidney Lumet movies from the 1970s, Network and Dog Day Afternoon, but it’s sleek, polished entertainment, and that’s sometimes all that matters.