Now here’s a movie that had a lot going for it. You have acting greats George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Giancarlo Esposito of TV’s BREAKING BAD, with equal acting titan Jodie Foster as the director. But I won’t lie, it looked like it’d be a dramatized version of THE BIG SHORT with a little more gun-play. That is what I thought the movie was about: some guy who lost a shit-load in the beginning of the recession we’re in and went to dramatic lengths to figuring out why. And toss in some Stockholm syndrome for good measure. But hey, out of the new movies this week, I was looking forward to this one the most. Did it hold up? Well here’s my honest opinion of MONEY MONSTER.
MONEY MONSTER is a finance TV show, hosted by the eccentric and animated Lee Gates (George Clooney) and together with his director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) make MONEY MONSTER a fun and popular show, giving financial advice on what companies to invest stock in. However, one company that Lee suggested the public to invest in, IBIS Global Capital, lost $800 million of the stockholders’ money and the reason was because of a computer glitch. The public has mostly been quiet since the incident, but investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) won’t accept the hollow reasoning. Sneaking onto the set of MONEY MONSTER, he successfully takes Lee hostage on live TV and makes claims that he’s not the real criminal and that the company owes the public a genuine explanation as to where all their money went. This proves difficult as the CEO of the company, Walt Camby (Dominic West), is nowhere to be found.
Alright, to start things off, Clooney is his usual charming self as Lee. He really adds this flare of fun when he’s on this TV show as he talks about how stocks rise or drop and in a lot of ways makes you kind of wish someone like this was really out there to listen to. Kinda made me want to buy stock in a company. But of course when shit hits the fan, he drops his TV personality and switches back to being a regular guy who doesn’t want to die, who doesn’t want a gun pointed at him, gets scared, all that good stuff. I think one standout moment for me, it’s so small and plays out pretty quick, but the scene when Kyle first appears on the set, he forces Lee to pick to open one of the two boxes he’s brought with him. Lee refuses, rather vehemently. It’s easy to think, “Oh, it’s just opening a box, of course I’d open it. Otherwise he’s just going to shoot me.” I don’t know, if you’re faced with a guy like this, logically, there’s no logical way to react. Men like this aren’t sane and insane people do unpredictable things, which is why they’re so dangerous. For all we know, these boxes have bombs in them that will explode the moment they’re opened and this prick doesn’t want to do the deed himself. I know there were better moments in the movie involving Clooney, but this was an interesting touch that I really liked about Lee.
Right beside Clooney for the umpteenth time, Roberts is just as great. She plays the director of Lee’s show who is about to quit because she can barely stand Lee’s wild and unpredictable antics that make it hard to keep the show running smoothly. Then when Kyle appears, Patty is unwilling to escape with the rest of the crew and leave Lee to his fate. She stays behind and through his earpiece, attempts to comfort him or feed him advice to better control the situation. That’s the best part of this character. Kyle has a gun and two bomb vests (which I’ll get to later), but Patty’s weapon is her voice. She can keep it soft and soothing when Lee, or hell, when Kyle goes berserk, and can easily calm or inspire Lee, or get Kyle to shut up.
And of course the real star of the movie, the chemistry between Clooney and O’Connell. This is the heart of the movie. The real driving force to get the audience invested. It’s wonderfully written how grey this whole situation is. Obviously, Kyle is wrong for threatening the lives of people who carry no responsibility in how he lost so much of his money. But you understand his burning frustration in reading between the lines when IBIS did lose his money gives a half-assed reason of, “It was a computer glitch.” All he wants is a real explanation. Something most anyone can relate with when dealing with such a suspicious situation and given short bullshit responses. And there’s Lee who’s caught in the middle and grows to question everything this company did as well and slowly wants to help this guy find answers, not just to preserve his own life, but because this company’s clearly hiding something and everyone deserves to know what skeletons are in the closet.
Among other great moments in the movie was character Diane (Caitriona Balfe) and her corporate bad-assness, sidestepping the grey-bearded assholes that don’t want her sticking her nose where is doesn’t belong, she was a great character. And also, Kyle’s girlfriend Molly (Emily Meade) was incredible in her brief role. Hell, she might be worth the price of admission alone with how viciously she rips into Kyle.
But having said all that, there’s a few problems.
The smallest of which is the second bomb vest. The story completely forgets about it. Not even kidding, Kyle brings two boxes, both with bomb vests, only one really needed to be in the movie. And Esposito, while not bad in the movie, is no necessary to play such a bland role. Seriously, grab an extra from the set, put him in that costume, and get that guy’s career off the ground and give Esposito the role of the slimy CEO. Actually, not that I have any problems with Dominic West in this film, but Esposito would have wiped the floor with him if he’d had the role of Walt Camby instead.
But if those were the movie’s biggest problems, this film would be downright fantastic. But the cardinal sin of the movie is it’s lack of understanding of how the real world works. Look, I’d be a two-faced liar if I said I knew anything about corporations, or stocks, or investments, or anything of that nature, but if a company went public and lost 800 million dollars, that company is going to get investigated up the dick-hole by the authorities and the company investors wouldn’t be so quiet about losing their money. In short, this story about Kyle infiltrating a TV set with bomb vests shouldn’t be happening because there should be people investigating how this shit even happened at all. No company could ever get away with saying, “Computer glitch!” and the rest of the world be none the wiser. No, we average human beings like to blame faulty technology on computer glitches, from our video games crashing, or internet shutting down at 11 PM at night (I have personal experiences with that one), we love to blame “glitches” on everything wrong. But no one would ever accept “computer glitch” as a reason for losing 800 million dollars. People would be up in arms demanding their invested money back and the company CEO would have to address the concerns of the public himself. This movie is not grounded in reality and relies solely on a fictional world that isn’t ours, but the average movie-goer is smarter than that and this movie unfortunately didn’t think itself through. It’s a shame because there is a story to tell here. Perhaps if the stakes were not as big as 800 million dollars, or a smaller company that had the same problem, maybe this could have worked out a hell of a lot better, but with so much money disappearing, the CEO missing with no idea where he is even from his most trusted company heads, red flags would be raised so high, you’d think the city of New York was bathed in blood.
Overall, this film is not bad at all, but with it’s lack of detail to how actual corporate bullshit would really be handled is remorsefully too distracting to call the movie “good.” It’s weird because I do recommend it, if only for the powerhouse performances this movie relies on, but with no realism to ground the film in reality, this problem does cause the movie to suffer in my mind. I saw it once, I’m happy I saw it, but I don’t think I’ll be seeing it again.
My honest rating: a strong 3/5
- A BIGGER SPLASH