“Money Monster,” which feels a bit dated at this point, aims to be suspenseful and boast some high-ground morality lessons as the shooter is portrayed as part lunatic and part victim. The film, directed by Jodie Foster, which has some entertaining moments, breaks down its main event by doubling up as a thriller/mystery combination. It feels too simplified, focusing the majority of its efforts on the suspense and high adrenaline of a hostage situation, but has just enough going for it to be entertaining.
Wanna-be gangster and obnoxious financial advisor, Lee Gates (George Clooney), hosts a live show. He advises investors about the stock market, what companies to invest in and so on. Within the span of a few minutes, we can see that Gates has an inflated sense of self-importance. This especially becomes a sad/funny moment when he finds out that the audience doesn’t really care all that much about him. While live, an irate investor, Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), takes the studio hostage, holding Gates at gunpoint and putting him in a bomb-rigged vest.
Behind the scenes, director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) is keeping tabs on Gates and ensuring that Kyle gets what he wants so he doesn’t hurt anyone. The friendship between Patty and Gates is really a selling point of the film. Their interactions largely take place through an earpiece, but Patty’s level head keeps Gates’ temper in check and ensures he doesn’t escalate the already perilous situation. Clooney is funny in his role, while Roberts is cool and collected. With the help of a representative from the company (Caitriona Balfe) that lost Kyle his money, they work together to find out if Kyle’s conspiracy theory is actually based in more truth than they were led to initially believe.
The film has a great opening and is generally able to maintain a sense of suspense throughout without it being far too over-the-top. Honestly, “Money Monster” is the type of film that you may or may not know where it’s going, just based on the first ten minutes. It starts off as a regular hostage situation, complete with a hostile man with a gun, but it changes course, alerting us early on that there’s more to the story than that of an angry man with a weapon. O’Connell is decent in his role, but ultimately has less to do than Clooney and Roberts, and this becomes more obvious as the film nears its end.
The conspiracy that’s running throughout the film is the plot’s game changer. The question stands: Is the guy with the gun ultimately the bad guy? Sure, he’s crazy, but are his points valid? Is there something Gates missed while spouting nothing but compliments about the stocks that fell? So there’s a bit of back and forth with all of these questions. But, of course, the turning point is when some of the mystery is solved and the hostage situation changes. The suspense in the end isn’t so much suspense as it is a convenient way to wrap up the film. The finale is far too conventional and by-the-book for it to truly hit a nerve. However, while the final act doesn’t quite come together, Foster’s film works enough for it to be enjoyable, if average.
Jodie Foster's "Money Monster" is a high-stakes thriller that doesn't work on every level, but still amasses some enjoyment for the hour and a half that you're watching.