With her fourth feature in the director’s chair, actress-turned-filmmaker Jodie Foster takes on the financial thriller genre in ‘Money Monster’, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. The action unfolds from within the confines of a TV studio where presenter Lee Gates (George Clooney) advises his viewers on the dos and don’ts of stock market trading with the help of his friend and the show’s director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts). After a bad tip involving financial services company IBIS Clear Capital, their show is interrupted by disgruntled labourer Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), who made a substantial loss on the investment. Desperate for answers, he holds Gates hostage with a gun and a bomb, demanding an explanation as to where his money has gone.
The narrative wastes no time in thrusting us into the story, and there is very little preamble before the arrogant finance guru is strapping on an explosive vest. The tight one-location set-up helps to build tension in the first hour or so, as well as boosting the interesting dynamic between Gates and Buckland, exploring the concept of ‘hijackee syndrome’. As the plot thickens around the foul play of IBIS, we are pulled away from the immediate situation to look at the bigger picture, and this switch of focus is to the detriment of the film. The vice-like grip it has over the audience loosens and the tone becomes slightly confused. The use of humour takes us away from the seriousness of the subject matter and though there are a few laughs and moments of clever cultural satire, the comedy feels out of place.
The casting of Clooney is inspired as he quickly eases himself into the smarmy persona of TV personality Lee Gates. He is bold and very brash at first glance, but his depth is slowly revealed and Clooney plays this subtly and to great effect. His chemistry with Roberts is as solid as ever, and their dialogue as Fenn talks into Gates’ earpiece feels authentic. What isn’t so authentic is the wavering American accent of British rising star Jack O’Connell who despite struggling to pin-down the New York drawl gives a powerfully complex performance as the volatile yet vulnerable Kyle Buckland. We can sympathise with the misguided character who has prematurely acted out of intuition without thinking through the dire consequences of his behaviour.
Playing out like a Dog Day Afternoon on Wall Street, Jodie Foster delivers an entertaining and fascinating blockbuster which crosses immeasurable financial power with working class problems. She excels in directing thrilling sequences and getting strong turns from the talent at her disposal, especially O’Connell in this case who proves he can hold his own alongside the most experienced of Hollywood players. It loses its way in spells, but despite the occasional dip which takes the edge off the spikes, ‘Money Monster’ is definitely a safe bet.
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