Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Money Monster - 2016

"Money Monster" - 2016
Dir. by Jodie Foster - 1 hr. 38 min.

Official International Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

George Clooney clearly has some things to say about the media, in general.  This movie is the spiritual back-end of a double-feature that starts with "Good Night, and Good Luck."  One is sort of a throw-back to the better days of news coverage (at least from the viewpoint of the film), this one is updating of "Network" (which I haven't seen), which uses Jon Stewart's public evisceration of Jim Kramer as the inspiration for a different kind of media-focused movie.

Lee Gates (George Clooney) hosts a financial "news" show, complete with costumes, hot air, dancers, and dance routines.  It's clear that Gates views this as entertainment first and foremost, but one of his stock tips ends disastrously for pretty much everyone when a company called IBIS experiences a computer glitch that sees $800m disappear overnight.  Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell), a blue-collar worker on the edge of financial ruin, loses his life savings, and decides to take Gates hostage on-air.  Complicating matters, the scheduled guest of Gates' show, the CEO of IBIS, Walt Camby (Dominic West), has gone off the grid, leaving no answers behind.

There is always a sort of thrill to seeing a hostage situation, and the twist here is that the situation is played out on live TV.  I can't swear that would even be plausible; I suspect that there's some kind of FCC rule that would say tough shit to someone like Lee Gates - and that no network would be allowed to air something like a hostage situation that might lead to a very large explosion.  Airing something like the situation proposed here would probably just encourage more people to do the same thing, if they knew that they'd get their TV time in exchange for criminal behavior.  So that's the first thing you're going to have to accept in order to enjoy "Money Monster."

One of the other things that you're going to have to accept is an idealistic view of the world.  "Money Monster" makes the point that creating vast wealth is a filthy, ruthless business, based on victimizing people.  Which is entirely true.  It also makes the point that treating financial news like it belongs on Sportscenter or something is irresponsible, which is probably also true.  I've always felt like, by the time something hits TV, especially something like a stock tip, it's old news.  But Kyle takes Gates at his word, and throws his life savings behind something aired on an entertainment show, from the mouth of a dancing baboon.  Obviously, this is foolhardy, and Kyle isn't portrayed as being particularly bright, and neither is taking people hostage.

Once you get past these things, "Money Monster" is a good thriller.  It's not great, but it's somewhat timely, and it functions as a story.  I enjoyed it while I watched it, which is probably a testament to Clooney and his co-star, Julia Roberts, who plays his producer.  The movie makes some valid points, although this is more of a thriller than a hard-hitting satire.  The biggest laughs came from off-hand comments along the way, just frequently enough to keep the tension at a reasonable level.  The point is, this is a film you're supposed to enjoy and forget, even though there's meat on the bones of the topic used as the foundation. 

3 / 5 - Theatre