Thursday, 2 June 2016

Money Monster

(M) ★★★

Director: Jodie Foster.

Cast: George Clooney, Jack O'Connell, Jodie Foster, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Christopher Denham, Giancarlo Esposito, Lenny Venito.

"I promise I'll never go near another superhero franchise ever again."

YOU know who it’s cool to hate right now? Those fat cats on Wall Street.

It certainly feels like that at the moment. After The Big Short and The Wolf Of Wall Street, and with the spectre of the real-life Global Financial Crisis still haunting our recent past, it seems the bankers are ripe for a kicking.

They’re not a new target, obviously. From Gordon Gecko telling us that “greed … is good” in Wall Street, to the likes of Boiler Room, Margin Call, and Rogue Trader, or docos like Enron and Inside Job – all these films hit upon the varying methods of exploring the haves, the have-nots, and disliking the people who help decide the difference between those two categories.

Money Monster takes us once again to the theatre of Wall Street and although it doesn’t have anything new to say, it at least gives the audience a new scenario in an increasingly familiar setting.

Jack O’Connell plays Kyle, a disgruntled investor who loses everything when a company’s computer glitch wipes $800 million off its stock value overnight.

Rather than take the news lying down, Kyle lashes out at TV money pundit Lee Gates (Clooney) – a gaudy, cynical showman who said the company was a sure thing just weeks before it crashed – by taking Lee hostage at gunpoint on live television.

It’s a great set-up that hits at the heart of the anger that still bubbles, particularly in the US, in the wake of the GFC. But don’t expect any great truths or insights to be unveiled. Money Monster is merely a neat thriller played out against a very “now” backdrop that we’ll likely forget about sooner rather than later, unlike The Big Short and The Wolf Of Wall Street, which people will probably still be talking about for years to come.

Foster’s direction is competent and the movie is tight and tense when it needs to be. It also manages some nice surprises along the way – a heartfelt plea for public support from Gates and a live-to-air phone call from Kyle’s pregnant girlfriend are two key passages that give the narrative a much-needed jolt.

But the film is lacking in a few places. It has more to say about the media than the morality of Wall Street, leaving the whole thing feeling like a missed opportunity for something bigger thematically.

Money Monster is also a rare example of miscasting – rare because the casting choice in question is George Clooney. He’s too damned likeable and while he sells Gates’ hostage-induced change of heart, he’s not believable as the pre-peril jerk he’s supposed to be. Money Monster would be a better film if we hated Gates more at the start, but Clooney can’t make us do that.

Meanwhile Roberts is wasted but good in the thankless role of Gates’ director Patty, leaving it up to O’Connell to own the show, which he does. He makes Kyle by turns intense, sympathetic and pathetic, and does a great job as the heart and soul of the film.

This won’t go down as one of the great Wall Street movies, nor will it end up in the lists of the best things Clooney, Roberts or Foster have done, but it’s a good-enough thriller that has some nice moves occasionally.

Unlike Clooney, who’s dancing in this movie leaves a lot to be desired. Some people may see this as a selling point though, so take that as you will.

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