#REVIEW: “MONEY MONSTER”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Lee Gates (George Clooney) is the egotistical host of Money Monster, a wildly-audacious financial news show (think Mad Money, but with more of a taste for the theatrical). As senior producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) and the crew settle-in for the show, they are interrupted by a gunman named Kyle (Jack O’Connell). He takes Gates hostage on live television, forces him to wear a bomb vest and then begins demanding answers about an investment that tanked under suspicious circumstances.
The first two-thirds of Money Monster is a riveting Thriller that focuses on the hostage situation and the police trying to take control. It wastes precious few moments on anything but the matter at hand, and does a solid job of making us understand and empathize with the plight of the main characters. But the Film takes a bizarre turn in the third act as the central mystery starts unravelling, and gets increasingly messier as it goes on. Director Jodie Foster – yes the one you are thinking of – sets her sights on ramping up the satire at the heart of the Film, but ends up making it convoluted and downright goofy. The Film reminded me a lot of Dan Gilroy’s Oscar-nominated Nightcrawler in its take on television news culture and how the public perceives it – except it trades the cynicism and uncomfortable truths for unintentional laughs and predictability.
The performances by the main cast are solid all around. Clooney shows a vulnerability that he usually keeps reserved in his work, allowing the audience to actually care about the fate of the otherwise intensely unlikeable Gates. He still retains his swagger however, so do not expect him to act completely out of character. Roberts on the other hand, plays against type as the show’s producer. She is unglamorous and spends the majority of the Film partially obscured by a headset. She takes charge of the role like you would imagine but is more reserved in what she says and does. She also manages to add layers to a character the script never fully fleshes out. Patty is the least showy character in the Film, yet ends up being the most calculated and precise.
But the Film’s real star is O’Connell, who has been MIA since Angelina Jolie’s messy World War II thriller Unbroken. The Film becomes practically incendiary when he arrives on-screen and starts asking questions. We know very little initially about his character Kyle, but as the Film unpacks new information, he becomes its tragic hero. The range of emotions he goes through is impressive, not to mention his knack for overshadowing Clooney every chance he gets. It should come as no surprise that the Film begins falling apart when it stops focusing on O’Connell.
Money Monster is very entertaining and has a great trio of main performers, but it really suffers under the weight of its messy third act. Foster has great intentions with her Film, but the Film’s satiric thesis seems to have gotten lost in translation. If it removed the unintentional humour and maintained its seriousness, it could have been truly great.
Sony Pictures Canada release MONEY MONSTER on Friday, May 13, 2016.