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MONEY MONSTER (USA 2016) ****
Directed by Jodie Foster
Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito
Review by Gilbert Seah
MONEY MONSTER is a star-studded sharp Hollywood satire/drama that is as current as the stock prices on the stock market charts. Financial TV personality Lee Gates (George Clooney), who offers up stock advice on his hit show “Money Monster”, is held hostage by a viewer, Kyle Budwell (Jack O’ Connell). Kyle had lost all of his money, following a bad tip from Lee during his show. Kyle wants answers. As the police surround the TV studio, Lee eventually sympathizes and takes Kyle’s side in discovering the truth about the company’s $800 million loss explained on TV as a glitch in the company’s financial algorithm.
MONEY MONSTER is a odd film in that its middle portion is better than the end. The story is predictable enough once naive Kyle takes Lee hostage. It does not take a genius to figure out that Lee will take Kyle’s side and that the villain of the piece is the CEO of the company (Dominic West) who eventually confesses to his embezzlement. But as they say, the devil is in the details. It is all the little observations and various incidents that make the movie totally watchable thus covering up the predictability complaint of the story.
Directed by Jodie Foster (THE PANIC ROOM), the film contains strong feminine roles. The most obvious is Julia Robert’s Patty Fenn, a more than able producer. She is Lee’s neglected girlfriend who proves she that she is able to control the hostage situation as well as their relationship. The other is that of Molly (Emily Meade), Kyle’s girlfriend. Molly’s speech to Kyle, on the air, on how much a loser he is, is the arguably funniest to be found in a film this year: As in recent ‘female’ films, the males (Lee, Kyle, the show producer, Walt) are all egocentric ‘idiots’. But by putting them up high on the pedestal and making it all funny, Foster gets away with it.
Performances are top notch. Clooney and Roberts work their chemistry but top marks go to Brit actor Jack O’ Connell (STARRED UP) , playing the straight role of the victim/antagonist. He demonstrates how to keep attention from waning even when the limelight shifts to another character. The other supporting roles are well performed by Dominic West as the financial villain, Walt Camby and Caitriona Balfe as Diane Lester, the whistle blower.
The incidents leading to the expected results are however genuinely inventive. The parody on found footage is take up another level with a network camera following the hostage and kidnapper down the elevator and into the street, still shooting. Lee raps on stage and offers stock tips also satirizes the financial world well. The script by Alan Di Fiore, Jim Kouf and Jamie Linden is smart enough to include clips of “The View” as everyone watches the takedown on television. Walt’s defence statement that all these would not have happened if events had worked out with the stock going up instead of down rings so true. When something illegal occurs and everyone benefits, no one says anything.
For a thriller, editing is crucial. The camera shots of the snipers crawling into position, the movement of the target, the shots of the crew behind and in front of the camera and the dance routine (to show just enough but not too much) are close to perfect.
MONEY MONSTER ultimately satisfies as it delivers what it is supposed to – a sharp and witty satire on the financial world that is both funny and smart at the same time. It features Hollywood’s top and upcoming stars at their best. Highly recommended – take this as as a movie tip!
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