Directed by Jodie Foster
Opens May 13
A hostage thriller with barely any tension. A recession-era cri de cœur without much fervor. A Hollywood star vehicle that thumbs its nose at the common man it disingenuously purports to represent. There’s so much lacking about the yes-that-Jodie-Foster-directed Money Monster that it near-completely negates the occasional pleasures that come bubbling to its gaseous surface.
Certainly as effortlessly charismatic and exceedingly well-intentioned celebs go, you can’t beat George Clooney and Julia Roberts—respectively playing the smug host, Lee Gates, and the beleagured director, Patty Fenn, of a cable news finance show. Gates gives breathless, sports-metaphor-heavy stock tips to a willing-dupe viewership, breaking up segments with faux-hip rap interludes featuring a pair of bootylicious backup dancers. But no one feels like twerking when gun-and-bomb-toting delivery man Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) sneaks into the studio, threatening to blow everyone to kingdom come because of a Gates-recommended bad investment that lost him $60,000 in savings.
The ensuing drama unfolds in what feels like real time, occasionally cutting away to a rogue’s gallery of old-reliables (Giancarlo Esposito, Chris Bauer, Dennis Boutsikaris, John Ventimiglia) in meager supporting roles, as well as to the rainbow coalition of viewers watching in locations that might as well be captioned “Minority-Owned Jiffy Lube,” “Hipster Coffee Shop” and “Frat-Douche Broker Bar.” To Foster’s credit, she mostly embraces the absurdity of the premise, the peak being an early scene in which Gates gives a rousing speech in order to force up a stock price—potentially defusing the hostage situation in the process—and the home audience summarily, cynically rejects him. (What Sam Fuller might have done with this.)
Money Monster has a real, bracing disdain for the rabble in the pit, those who use others’ social media-spotlighted misery as a kind of virtual contact high. That makes the film’s treatment of O’Connell’s minimum wage-earning Budwell all the more suspect. He’s the strung-out lamb sacrificed on the altar of big, bad capitalism, here represented by Dominic West’s slick embezzler of a CEO. But he’s also the means by which our two celebrity leads can prove their for-the-little-guy virtuousness. It’s the same old sentimental bullshit: If George and Julia are on your side, anything’s possible! I’d sooner talk investment portfolios with Bernie Madoff.