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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Money Monster Review

A Solid Investment

The financial crisis has been on abundant display at the movies lately. Just last year, "The Big Short" and the underseen "99 Homes" focused on the housing crisis and economic collapse. Who knew such a dark time would provide so many movies.

Director Jodie Foster's "Money Monster" is an entertaining thriller with some things to say about the world today. While it never looks at the widespread effects of the crumbling economy, there are points to be made. Wisely, she doesn't emphasize them but sticks to making a solid B-movie thriller.

George Clooney stars as Lee Gates, an obnoxious but charismatic television personality. His show, "Money Monster", analyzes stock options and he gives his advice on what people should invest in. He dances, wears costumes and uses props, while trying to grab his viewers' attention. He is guided by director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), through each episode. Patty has the thankless task of trying to keep Lee on course.     

They are setting up the show one Friday and everything seems to be business as usual. Patty is getting everything in order - all of Lee's bells and whistles - and trying to convince him to stay on script. The show gets going and Patty notices a man lurking behind the stage. He makes his way out in front of the camera, carrying two boxes. What's the delivery man doing on live TV? He drops the boxes and pulls out a gun.

The man, later identified as Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell), is a disgruntled viewer of Lee's. In one of the boxes is a vest, which is decorated with explosives. With a gun to his head, he orders Lee to put the vest on. Everyone is confused why this is happening but Kyle lets Lee know he took some of his advice and it lost him his life savings.

"Money Monster" takes place entirely on this Friday. Kyle comes with an already prepared manifesto, denouncing the government and the company that lost $800 million. Kyle just doesn't want his money back - he wants all of the investors to be repaid. The entire world watches as the hostage situation unfolds on live TV.

As a contained thriller, "Money Monster" is gloriously tense and entertaining. Watching the madness unfold in real time is like a cross between "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Network" (without reaching the heights of those great films).

The last 20 minutes fumble a bit, which take away from the pulsating tension of the rest of the film. Writers Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf take the action outside of the studio and let the air entirely out of the picture. You can see the seams beginning to tear on the film but because what came before it is so good, "Money Monster" is still worth your time.

Clooney and Roberts have such a wonderful friendship and comfortable chemistry together, they make "Money Monster" fun to watch. The script offers some slyly funny moments and good back-and-forth for Lee and Patty. Who better to play longtime work friends than Clooney and Roberts?
This is Foster's fourth film as a director and it is unlike her previous films. She has never helmed a thriller or anything so accessible but shows she can. She gives "Money Monster" a slick look and keeps the film moving forward. Even when the script fumbles, she keeps the momentum up for a compact 98 minutes.

The last leg of the film may be a letdown and doesn't really make sense in the world of the film but it never stopped me from thinking that the seemingly outlandish plot could happen in today's world. How terrifying is that?

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