THE stakes are high as Jodie Foster directs the likes of George Clooney and Julia Roberts in Money Monster, a financial thriller that swiftly picks up after a concerning opening to play as a generally enjoyable piece.
Set in real-time, the film opens with Lee Gates (Clooney) preparing to present Money Monster, a show which sees Gates act as a charming yet hammy presenter offering financial advice under the direction of long-suffering Patty (Roberts).
As his latest edition begins, a young lorry driver Kyle (Jack O’Connell) manages to sneak onto the set where he holds Gates at gunpoint and forces him to wear a jacket with a bomb attached that will go off if Kyle’s thumb comes off the detonator. It turns out that Kyle is a disgruntled investor who lost his entire life savings after taking advice from Gates’s show.
The investment was in a company entitled IBIS, which has lost $800million in investment, not helped by the fact that the dodgy CEO (Dominic West) has gone AWOL, conveniently before appearing on the show.
With Gates’s life at stake and a police operation underway which could go anywhere, Kyle’s televised quest to demand the truth as to what really happened to the investments leads to a climactic confrontation at New York’s financial district.
After an opening montage of some trippy sort, Gates is shown preparing for the show, with Clooney hamming it up as a presenter who introduces his show in the vein of a rap star, along with his two assistants. Though Clooney is clearly parodying the ideology of over-the-top presenting, it does make for some cringe-worthy viewing, the sort Clooney isn’t usually guilty of.
Though its not the most likeable way to start, once Gates finds himself with a gun to his head, the thriller element kicks in and retains our interest throughout, even if it does come across as predictable.
From producers bizarrely displaying concern about the usage of profanity on a live television show to Patty having to direct Gates and keep Kyle calm knowing a bomb is nearby, the use of being forced to televise it adds to the entertainment. This is represented by knowing that the whole world can see the effort that Kyle, the poster-boy for the screwed-over, under-privileged sector, is making to prove who the real villains are, even if he is the one with the gun, as he points out.
Instead of just focusing on New Yorkers in bars gripped by the events, the action involves South Korea, Iceland and South Africa, eventually forming into the plot successfully, rather than playing as a plain montage of global attention.
The focus on not just what is going on in the studio is also helped by the detailing of the police operation where an unusual strategy is put in place. As the camera focuses on the bomb strapped to Gates, it dawns that the weapon is located directly on his kidney, leading to the police speculating whether to shoot Kyle whose immediate detonation knowing their actions would potentially kill Gates too. It shows the desperation on both sides as a thriller perspective, additionally helped by the section where an ambitious IBIS representative Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe) eventually seeks to find out what really happened to her company.
It does play as somewhat flimsy but the social commentary is a welcome part to this. It explains the out-of-touch mannerisms of those at the top who think they can get away with all, in contrast to the working-class, like Kyle, who lose out due to their background.
When Diane confronts her boss, he comments on how she is just another of the female workers from the past, detailing the apparent misogyny depicted in the workplace. Fighting back from this, Diane is arguably one of the stronger characters, going like Gates from untrustworthy to the unlikely hero in all this.
A sequence where Kyle is confronted by his girlfriend via video link who proceeds to chastise him on live television for his financial inadvertencies is brutal but succeeds thanks to its seemingly all-is-lost connotations. The fact that the film’s continuation of getting the truth uncovered, becoming more intense along the way, helped by Gates’s gradual transition from someone we aren’t really a fan of to someone who eventually wins our trust.
The finale where Gates and Kyle take to the streets whilst surrounded by cheering crowds and armed officers is more effective thanks to the juxtaposition of Patty and her team’s race to secure information about IBIS’s financial misdeeds. Foster is directing a film that could have done with a bit more originality but is able to grip us in what is more a case of trying to entertain audiences in the way that appeals but not desperately.
Forgiving the first fifteen minutes, Money Monster compensates once the thriller element is displayed and serves as a feature that won’t make an end-of-year best films list but can say it entertains, mostly.