There’s been a lot of talk about the star power behind Money Monster— George Clooney and Julia Roberts in a film directed by Jodie Foster– how could it not work? But when you stop to think about it, Clooney’s last three films (Hail Caesar, Tomorrowland,and The Monuments Men) all underperformed (or were outright awful). Julia Roberts hasn’t been relevant since… 2010’s Eat Pray Love. And Jodie Foster‘s best directorial effort (of her three so far) was 1995’s Home for the Holidays.
So is it any surprise that Money Monster doesn’t live up to expectations? It may have moments, sure, and Clooney is still able to turn in a solid performance, but beyond that Money Monster doesn’t amount to very much at all.
Clooney plays Lee Gates, a Jim Cramer-like financial show host, complete with back-up dancers and zany sound effects. In the middle of his show one day, an armed gunman named Kyle (Jack O’Connell) makes his way onto the set (a little too easily, if you ask me) and proceeds to strap a bomb vest to Gates. Turns out Kyle bet his savings on a stock tip that Gates offered, but when the tip proved to be ill-advised, Kyle lost everything, and now he wants answers.
Roberts is Nancy, his long-time director, who has to juggle the goings-on while dealing with the police, tracking down the story behind the bad tip, and also keeping Lee calm via his earpiece.
From the outset it’s clear that Money Monster isn’t just a hostage thriller; it’s also a fairly heavy-handed commentary on the current financial climate. And not only is it particularly ill-conceived, it also has the distinct disadvantage of hitting theaters just a few months after the Oscar-winning The Big Short-– which was infinitely more smart and creative in handling the topic.
The screenplay by Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf (TV’s Grimm), along with Jamie Linden (Dear John) does have some moments, but anyone who can’t see the finish line from a mile away isn’t trying. Almost from the outset it’s obvious who the real villain in the story is, and once that becomes clear, any tension Money Monster dreamed of disappates.
As for Foster, she doesn’t bring anything particularly memomorable to the director’s chair. There’s never any sense that she’s offering a unique vision or a style; if her name wasn’t on the poster, there’s no way anyone would guess that she was behind the camera.
While there are plenty of big names in Money Monster, don’t get fooled. What had the potential to be a taut thriller (or even a relevant socio-economic commentary) fizzles before it really even has the chance to get going.