In a perfect world, the new film Money Monster would feature a monster that was literally made out of money. Its name would be Monblar and it would shamble down Wall Street and breathe coins made of fire.
Or, if not featuring a literal Money Monster, the film would at least open with the angry spirit of Andrew Jackson springing out of a twenty and seeking vengeance over being replaced by Harriet Tubman. In order to defeat the bitter old president, it would be necessary to summon the spirits of both Tubman and currency hottie Alexander Hamilton. Seriously, that would be a great movie!
Unfortunately, Money Monster is just another boring recession thriller. I’ve lost track of how many bad movies have been released since 2008, all featuring saintly blue collar workers who are forced to resort to extreme measures as a result of losing all of their money due to corporate greed. While they seek revenge by either pulling off a tower heist or an assault on wall street, villainous CEOs sit in their offices, smoke cigars, and laugh at the evil of it all. In between the inevitable gunshots and the collapsing families and the evictions, there’s always time for a didactic speech or two. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not fan of Wall Street but I’m also not a fan of preachy movies.
George Clooney plays Lee Gates, who has a show called Money Monster where he tells people where they should invest their money. Lee is charming. Lee is glib. Lee’s show features backup dancers, clips from old movies, and a rap theme song that is just so 2002. At the start of the show, Lee even dances as Money Monster tries to convince us that Lee’s a hyperactive showman despite the fact that he’s being played one of the most laid back actors of all time. Lee is totally unaware and/or unconcerned about the people who have occasionally lost their life savings due to his advice.
One of those people is a deliveryman named Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) and we know he’s a good, honest guy because his name is Kyle Budwell as opposed to Kyle Evilguy. Kyle follows Lee’s advice to invest his family’s savings in IBIS Global Capital. (At first, I thought that the company was called ISIS Global Capital and I was like, “Hey, you betray your country, you pay the consequences…”) One week later, the IBIS stock crashes, Kyle is suddenly dead broke, The Big Short only manages to win one Oscar, and Hillary Clinton defeats Bernie Sanders in the New York primary. What other choice does Kyle have other than to go on Lee’s show, force Lee to wear a bomb vest, and demand answers!
There’s not a single surprising moment in Money Monster. I was going to say that you immediately know that IBIS’s CEO is evil because he’s played by Dominic West but actually, you know he’s evil because he’s a CEO and he’s appearing in a movie called Money Monster. Meanwhile, you know that Kyle isn’t really a bad guy because he looks like likable, clean-cut, and handsome Jack O’Connell. If Money Monster had any guts, it would have cast some fat 60 year-old slob with bad teeth in the role of Kyle Budwell. Money Monster ends with a twist that you’ll guess within the first few minutes of film. It’s an annoying twist, if just because it seems to assume that the audiences can’t handle moral ambiguity.
(Then again, there’s really no reason to assume that audiences can handle moral ambiguity so maybe Money Monster has a point…)
I suppose I should mention that Julia Roberts is also in the movie but there’s really no reason for her to be there. She plays Lee’s producer, Patty, and there’s nothing about the role that demands it be played by a star. There is a subplot about how, up until the Kyle takes Lee hostage, Patty had been planning on quitting her job but … well, who cares? Whenever Patty and Lee talked, I found myself cringing and thinking, “Do we really have to sit through this conversation?”
(In all fairness to Money Monster, that’s actually my reaction to most conversations…)
Money Monster was directed by Jodie Foster. It’s funny how we always assume that just because someone is a good actor that they’ll also be a good director. For instance, Angelina Jolie has directed three mediocre films and yet, with the announcement of each new Jolie-directed movie, we still continue to assume that she’s eventually going to win an Oscar for her work behind the camera. (Remember when Unbroken and By The Sea were being touted as guaranteed Oscar nominees?) George Clooney has directed five films and none of them are really that good. (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind only works because of Sam Rockwell’s performance. Goodnight and Good Luck is overrated. Leatherheads is boring. The Ides of March is tedious and The Monuments Men is one of the worst movies that I’ve ever seen.) Money Monster is Foster’s fourth film as a director and it’s almost as much of a tonal mess as The Beaver. Then again, The Beaver was at least weird. Money Monster was just boring. Foster is an incredibly compelling actress and an incredibly blah director.
That said, you would think that Foster would at least be able to get good performances out of the cast. As good as they often are, both George Clooney and Julia Roberts have actorly tics that they tend to fall back on whenever they’re working in the absence of a strong directorial vision and let’s just say that this is a very tic-filled film. Meanwhile, poor Jack O’Connell is running the risk of turning into Taylor Kitsch.
Amazingly enough, Money Monster was this week’s “big” release. Personally, I would recommend seeing Captain America: Civil War for a second or third time. Now that was a good movie!