Should you do your dough on George Clooney’s new thriller?
American history now often seems like it’s been thought up by Hollywood, thanks to news-as-entertainment 24/7 coverage of events like the September 11 attacks, Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Hurricane Katrina, GFC meltdown, Sandy Hook massacre, San Bernardino terrorist shooting and bizarre-world Trump election bid. But watching Money Monster actually works the other way—you can’t help be amazed something just like it hasn’t happened already. The movie might be many things, but far-fetched it ain’t, particularly given how lax America’s gun control laws are and how deeply Main Street hates Wall Street.
The film has George Clooney as Lee Gates, a smug TV personality whose over-the-top cable show Money Monster shills for Wall Street in outrageous fashion. But his usual Friday of flippant buy-or-sell stock advice becomes a life-or-death live broadcast when desperate young dude Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) invades the set with a loaded gun, a powerful bomb and a bitter message he wants the American people to hear. In the control room, show director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) tries to keep Lee alive, fend off trigger-happy cops and investigate Kyle’s claims about the $US800 million loss recently incurred by Ibis Capital.
While The Big Short smartly and comically went after the system, Money Monster is content to locate modern capitalism’s failings in one individual and one company acting outside the law. Similarly, Kyle’s motives are less political and more personal. For a thriller, these are smart moves, making for a fast-flowing flick that gives Clooney’s schmuck the chance to redeem himself as a real reporter while Roberts heroically organises an in-depth digital investigation in a matter of minutes. These genre tropes are fun if pretty flimsy. But the film is at its best when it subverts expectations, such as Lee trying to rally Ibis stock to save his ass and Kyle’s wife Molly (Emily Meade, who steals the show) turning up to try to talk sense into him. These moments, along with the satirical portrait of Lee in the opening and Kyle’s more cogent rants, give us a glimpse of the edgier and smarter movie Money Monster should have been. Given that tens of millions of Americans are still suffering from the sort of corporate malfeasance depicted here, audiences deserved a blacker and angrier movie instead of director Jodie Foster doing an “Occupy”-themed update of siege thrillers like John Q and Inside Man.
You could do worse than putting down your money for Money Monster this weekend. But for GFC dramas with more bite and balls, be sure also to check out The Big Short and 99 Homes, both out now on DVD.