Release date: 27th May 2016/Watch the trailer here
Jodie Foster’s Money Monster is the latest film in a recent succession of movies with money on their mind. However, unlike some of those that came before it – The Big Short, for example – Money Monster is less of a focused look at the financial crash, and more of a tense, entertaining thriller, that just so happens to have anger about money matters at its centre.
George Clooney plays Lee Gates, the smug, selfish host of a successful money television show, directed by Julia Robert’s long-suffering (and far more likeable) Patty Fen. The show is in full swing – Clooney pulling out the dad dance moves in a variety of embarrassing costumes, and so on – when it is disrupted by the arrival of Jack O’Connell’s gun-wielding Kyle Budwell, live on air. Cue Gates reevaluating his life choices while strapped into a vest laden with explosives, but despite this predictability, it’s refreshing to see a male lead act genuinely, realistically terrified when he has a gun pointed to his head.
Clooney plays the character perfectly, even managing to achieve genuine chemistry with Julia Roberts, despite their characters communicating mostly via earpiece and sharing very little screen time. O’Connell, too, gives an effective performance: intense and yet sympathetic. The real villain of Money Monster is CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West) – Budwell is merely an incensed investor who has lost everything, thanks to the titular money monsters.
The standoff that ensues – broadcast live to millions of viewers – unfurls in real time, creating an atmosphere that is successfully suspenseful, interrupted only by unnecessary visits to places other than the Money Monster studio which occasionally disrupt the tension.
Still, Money Monster manages to succeed both as a fast-paced thriller and a conspiracy drama, holding together as it leaps from genre to genre, mainly thanks to how utterly watchable Clooney is. It may be nothing that we haven’t seen before, but it’s entertaining enough for that to not particularly matter.