Entertainment

‘Money Monster’ comes up a few bucks short

Jack O'Connell and George Clooney in “Money Monster.”
Jack O'Connell and George Clooney in “Money Monster.” Sony Pictures

What It’s About

The fed up little guy upset with the callous big money machine is the driving force of “Money Monster,” a suspenseful social commentary with its heart and smarts in the right place.

The smooth and steady professionalism of George Clooney, as smug, glib TV financial guru Lee Gates, and Julia Roberts, as sharp but long-suffering program director Patty Fenn, keeps the film on track when it’s about to go off the rails.

It’s their fourth pairing, and their effortless working relationship is obvious. It’s also director Jodie Foster’s fourth movie. She’s going for a modern “Network” but also reminded me of “The China Syndrome.”

Wanting to live up to the golden age of 1970s zeitgeist thrillers is admirable, and the movie astutely conveys widespread blue-collar resentment of the callous and shifty global economy movers-and-shakers.

Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), a delivery driver from Queens, invested his life savings in IBIS Clear Capital, a stock slick Lee built up as a “can’t miss.” Inexplicably, $800 million of the company’s money went missing, sending stocks tumbling and investors out of cash.

Kyle, mad as hell, takes Gates and his crew hostage on the sound stage. Patty keeps the cameras going, and we have a world-wide reality TV sensation. He wants answers and accountability from IBIS CEO Walt Gamby (Dominic West).

Meanwhile, the staff, literally under the gun, investigates the IBIS computer glitch because information isn’t adding up. Of course there is a twist — telegraphed noticeably in the movie trailer.

The ending is a little wobbly, although the plot does zig and zag effectively to keep us on our toes.

Performances

Clooney and Roberts fans will not be disappointed, and they are both strong with these roles that are in their lanes.

O’Connell plays a regular Joe who is a mix of cliché and mystery, and suffers from the storyline’s hard-to-believe revelations and too-simple devices.

Caitriona Balfe (“Outlander”) is noteworthy as IBIS communications director.

What Works

The real-time filming works, and the movie’s urgency is its saving grace.

A grown-up alternative to comic book movies, it’s good to have choices at the multiplex.

What Doesn’t Work

Too much is revealed in the movie trailer, so you know there is more to the initial story, and aren’t surprised at developments.

There are serious issues raised that are timely in an election year, but it doesn’t seem to go far enough, and winds up being a generic indictment of what’s wrong with our economy.

“Money Monster”

 1/2

  • Director: Jodie Foster
  • Cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito
  • Rated R (language throughout, some sexuality and brief violence)
  • 98 minutes
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