Money Monster – An investment that doesn’t pay off

Published: June 1, 2016
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Money Monster (2016) PHOTO: IMDb

Why am I not even surprised? I mean, when was the last time we saw a Hollywood flick with A-Listers trying to aspire for cinematic brilliance? The only thing these studios are currently interested in is making a quick buck and that invariably happens to be at the expense of the intelligent viewer.

For starters, Money Monster tries to concoct a unique genre blend by marrying ‘hostage-thriller’ with ‘Wall Street drama’ which is intriguing to begin with. But regrettably, it turns out to be the worst of both. On the former, it’s no Dog Day Afternoon (1975). And as far as the latter is concerned, Money Monster is not even a patch on its last year counterpart The Big Short (2015), which coincidentally was the last time I personally enjoyed a Tinseltown fare chock-full of leading actors.

Speaking of which, George Clooney, one of the foremost performers of the current generation, plays Lee Gates – a smug and maverick television personality who offers get-rich-quick tips for those seeking a quick fortune on his financial analysis TV show, Money Monster.

George Clooney in Money Monster (2016)
Photo: IMDb

But when one of his recommendations loses millions overnight, one of the stock crash victims Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) invades his show and takes him hostage, strapping a bomb to his chest and demanding answers from those responsible.

George Clooney and Jack O’Connell in Money Monster (2016)
Photo: IMDb

Watching from the side-lines, by way of the control room, is the tough and resourceful producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), who while trying to keep things calm is also actively seeking a solution that would rescue the situation.

Julia Roberts, Carsey Walker Jr., and Jim Warden in Money Monster (2016)
Photo: IMDb

Director Jodie Foster, a star in her own right, has worked with the likes of Martin Scorsese in Taxi Driver (1976), Jonathan Demme  in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and  David Fincher in Panic Room (2002) and yet in spite of being given a smart premise she so infuriatingly fails to create even a fraction of the suspense that her mentors are celebrated for.

Foster, it seems, just can’t generate the requisite tension, despite the intrigue and mystery built into the setup.

Though the movie unravels in real time, it’s oddly devoid of tension. It does not matter how many times Kyle waves his gun in the air and threatens to detonate the place with a bomb, because we never truly sense Lee’s life being in danger.

Jodie Foster and Jack O’Connell in Money Monster (2016)
Photo: IMDb

The film furiously but bewilderingly alters between different tones. One minute it’s a sombre piece of social commentary, the next it’s a tense action thriller. And then, possibly, a work of satire.

It’s hard to watch this movie with consistent emotions. Being a screenwriting teacher, I get it that provoking unpredictable reactions out of the audience is a desirable trait for your screenplay to parade, but evidently not if you are laughing when you are supposed to feel tensed and vice versa.

Jodie Foster’s drama yanks the viewers in way too many directions at once to ever be really sure.

As a satire on the media, it has hints of both Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1982) and Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), but it shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence as the pair – it’s that deficient.

Now if you really plan on watching a recent movie that makes the right points about the financial crisis while still working as an effective cinematic experience, you’ve got plenty of options, like the aforementioned The Big Short (2015) and Margin Call (2011).

One of Money Monster’s greatest flaws is its miscasting of Clooney as a supposedly unlikable character in the beginning who gradually gains more sympathy as the movie progresses; (a) he is George – Mr eternally good guy – Clooney, (b) he can’t pull off a negative character, even if it’s just being an egotistical schmuck for a little while and (c) the transformation was simply too flimsy.

Roberts, meanwhile, is just plain boring in a role that literally any actress could have played just as well.

Long story short, Money Monster is not a worthwhile investment of your time and would surely leave you feeling short-changed.

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Hassan Sardar

Hassan Sardar

The author is an aspiring filmmaker and a diehard Liverpool fan. He also teaches Screenwriting and Cinematography, and loves tattoos and flip-flops. He tweets as @CineSardar (twitter.com/CineSardar)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.