Sunday 16 October 2016

Money Monster

Since the dawn of cinema, there is one group of people that Hollywood has always made villains out of. Bankers. Bloody money-grabbin’ bankers. From the cruel Mr. Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life, through to Gordon Gekko in Wall Street and up to the troublingly true tales like The Big Short; bankers have always been portrayed as greedy and nasty fuckers. Because, for the most part, they are. If you’re a banker reading this and you’re thinking “I’m not a greedy and nasty fucker” then great, there are a few of you out there. But you’re in the minority.

Jodie Foster’s latest directorial effort is ‘Money Monster’, which is out now on DVD & Blu-ray. It’s a fictional story but despite the lack of factual truth, it is still startlingly relevant and believable. George Clooney plays Lee Gates, the charmingly smug host of a financial TV show that dishes out investment advice to its many viewers. When Gates gets a projection wrong and loses a lot of money for a lot of people, one of these now-penniless followers (Jack O’Connell) takes everyone at the TV station hostage at gunpoint, and straps a bomb onto Gates. He demands to know why this happened, and if he doesn’t get answered, everybody dies. Tense, huh? And throw in Julia Roberts as Patty, the show’s director - you’ve got yourself a decent cast, too. So, is the film any good?

Unfolding in real-time, Money Monster is an often tense and gripping 90 minutes. Think of it as Dog Day Afternoon meets The Big Short, and you’re somewhere close. The film holds a mirror up to the finance world and says “this could happen”, and it is all the more gripping because of it. One of these days, a film with this exact same plot could come out and be based on a true story. But despite this relevant theme, the film is a bit of a muddled mess at times – and, on the whole, feels like a disappointment.

Let’s start with the positive. The cast are superb. George Clooney is completely at home playing a smug hot-shot television host, completely nailing the obnoxious grins and self-assured swagger. Jack O’Connell is great too, but despite his talent he doesn’t do anything particularly memorable with the role of Kyle Budwell. It feels like a role that anyone could’ve played – which doesn’t apply to Clooney’s Gates, a role I can’t imagine anyone else in. Dominic West plays an arsehole banker and seems to have fun with it, while Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo ‘Gus’ Esposito shows up as a police captain. Bless him. Oh, and again, Julia Roberts is an afterthought in this paragraph – which says it all. She’s decent enough here, but evidently forgettable.

The next point – the screenplay (which took 3 people to write), and the story itself (which took 2 of those 3) – is either a positive or a negative, depending on who you are. Money Monster could’ve been a smart, socioeconomic tale about the power of finance and what it does to people. Like I said, it holds a mirror up to banking, sure. But that’s all it does. It doesn’t delve below the surface. That is the film’s biggest issue – it never gets deep. This could’ve been a hard-hitting banking drama but, alas, it often falls back into bog-standard siege thriller territory. However, if this is what you want – maybe you just want to switch your mind off and enjoy a cheesy thriller – then you’ll be in your element. For me, this overly simplistic narrative delivery detracted from what could’ve been the film’s power.

So, is it worth a watch? Maybe. As noted above, it all depends on what you want from it. If you’re looking for a deep and intelligent drama about modern banking, watch The Big Short. And if you’re looking for a tense and unforgettable siege drama, watch Dog Day Afternoon. But if you want something in-between that requires very little of your concentration, Money Monster will satisfy you.

Money Monster is a disappointment, but still an entertaining watch. 3/5


Sam Love

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