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Money Monster

“Money Monster” is the cinematic equivalent of buying government bonds. It’s a low-risk, low-return venture, one that performs modestly but has no trouble meeting its goals and delivering a reasonable return.

George Clooney plays the host of a TV show a lot like “Mad Money;” one of those that looks like a silly game show but talks about stalks and bonds and securities instead. Julia Roberts is his producer/handler, feeding him cues and bits as well as telling him to shut up and stick to the script.

Then Jack O’Connell walks in and takes the live show hostage, strapping a suicide vest to Clooney and demanding that Roberts keeps them on the air.  He’s lost a lot of money following Clooney’s advice, and he really wants to hold someone responsible.  O’Connell seems miscast, though; he yells too much, and fails to display the kind of charisma and intensity need to make us sympathize with him and his plight.  He’s supposed to be playing working class and uneducated; he mostly just plays dumb.  Also, I’m curious why both he and his girlfriend have Boston accents, when the movie is set in New York.

So you can see that all of the ingredients are there for a decent thriller.  All of us want to hold Wall Street responsible for what’s happened to our country, though it’s hard to pin down the exact culprit. The movie has more than a few sarcastic things to say about our financial system, but it’ saying all the same things that have been said before. And let’s face it, when you strap a bomb to a guy, you’ve got an entertaining movie, as long as you don’t make any stupid mistakes. And “Money Monster” doesn’t; it hits its marks, for the most part, it’s paced well, and Clooney and Roberts can carry this kind of thing in their sleep.  It is at turns funny and tense, and it builds towards its big reveal in a satisfying way.  Watching “Money Monster” is kind of like watching a grade school gymnastics meet; nobody’s going to make your jaw drop, but you’re going to clap at the nicely turned cartwheels anyway.

It does stumble a bit at the end.  The second act sets up Dominic West as the bad guy who is responsible for taking O’Connells money; it looks increasingly like what he called a computer glitch is going to turn out to be a case of carefully concealed fraud. But then, suddenly, a ton of information is dumped to make it clear that what West did was both technically legal and standard practice; everyone is doing it.  I can see why director Jodie Foster decided to go this direction; it’s a way to indict the whole financial system instead of just singling out one bad guy and blaming him.  It’s a tricky move, much more complicated and subtle than anything else “Money Monster” has attempted, and it can’t quite stick the landing.

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

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