Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a television personality, giving stock tips to small investors on FNN, a financial network on cable tv. Lee has been pushing a stock called IBIS Capital, whose stock fell precipitously recently. IBIS CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West) says it’s a glitch in the program’s algorithm, and Lee agrees, calling this an opportunity to buy. Camby cancels an interview with Lee at the last minute, and sends his public relations spokesman, Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe) to do the interview with Lee instead. The interview is interrupted when a delivery man named Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) breaks into the building and takes Lee and his director Patty Fenn, (Julia Roberts) and the camera crew hostage. Kyle is a disgruntled investor who lost money on IBIS, and wants answers. Kyle instructs Lee to put a life jacket on, filled with Semtex plastic explosive. Lee complies, and the hostage standoff begins. Lee offers to pay Kyle whatever he lost, Kyle refuses. Police find Kyle’s girlfriend, Molly (Emily Meade) and Patty pipes her into the studio via video feed. The plan backfires as Molly rips into Kyle for making matters worse.
Diane Lester contacts Won Joon, (Aaron Yoo) the man who programmed the algorithm, and he says there is nothing wrong with the algorithm, so Diane suspects financial fraud may have occurred. Meanwhile Patty and her co-workers try to find out what Camby was up to, and when Camby’s plane lands Diane instructs him to go to Federal Hall and clear up all Kyle’s doubts. Kyle is headed for Federal Hall with Lee and many of the New York City Police Department. How does the hostage drama end?
If I was Jim Cramer, I would be very angry about Money Monster. Money Monster copies the style and flash of Cramer’s Mad Money tv show, and it infers that Cramer recommends stocks in return for access to corporate CEO’s. Besides besmirching Jim Cramer’s reputation, the script has many problems. It tries to recreate the excitement of movies like Dog Day Afternoon, or Network, but the Network angle doesn’t work because the writers realize that Lee’s request would encourage risky behavior by Wall Street executives. But, the script has other problems, the story seems to be encouraging vigilantism or domestic terrorism, and it definitely does not want to do that, so as these issues resolve themselves the dramatic tension decreases greatly and the story becomes quite ordinary. Here’s the issue I have with this story it’s so convoluted, and has so many moving pieces, that it’s not nearly as interesting as the real circumstances of the actual financial crisis. The actual financial crisis involved failures by the banks, Wall Street investment firms, the rating agencies, federal and state regulators and the Federal Reserve bank. That’s a far more compelling story and better told in the movie, The Big Short. This movie reminds me more of Inside Man, which Jodie Foster was in, and that movie was a better one than Money Monster.
George Clooney does not have the charisma of Jim Cramer, that is true, but to his credit Clooney does handle the dramatic scenes well, and turns a character that shouldn’t be very likable into a thoughtful and compassionate person. Julia Roberts does a competent job as the calm director when all around her is going haywire. However I can’t help but feel like this is a vanity project for both Clooney and Roberts. The worst performance is undoubtedly by O’Connell as Kyle Budwell, he struggles mightily with a New York accent, and the scrip doesn’t do him any favors, portraying him as alternatively a nut, or a loser. As an actor, he doesn’t have many choices to make in this film.
Jodie Foster tries to capture the mood of an investment show like Cramer’s, actually the production values are better than a low budget cable show. Foster attempts to show the global reach of one multinational company by showing people from Reykjavik, South Korea, South Africa and of course America, but the opening doesn’t make sense unless you watch the whole movie, so the point is kind of lost. She tries to keep the suspense going by concentrating most of the action in a cramped television studio. But the suspense tapers off, and the ending is slow and expected. The pacing is slow, so a movie that was a little more than an hour and a half seems much longer. There is no distinctive camera work or editing.
Money Monster: Boo!