ReelBob: ‘Money Monster’

By Bob Bloom

“Money Monster” is a thriller hiding behind a curtain of social critique on capitalism, the easy manipulation of money and the corruption that creates.

It is a story of the transformation of the American dream into reality TV through shows that lure people into risking their life savings on a vision of earning quick riches.

George Clooney stars as Lee Gates, host of a financial news show called “Money Monster.” The show, a satire of CNBC’s “Mad Money” hosted by Jim Cramer, has Clooney’s Gates wearing costumes and dancing around as he offers simplistic advice on buying and selling stocks to viewers unsophisticated about the intricacies of the stock market and investment strategies.

Gates has been aggressively hawking a high-tech company named Ibis. But in a 24-hour period, the company loses $800 million, supposedly because of a computer glitch, thus wiping out or greatly reducing the earnings of millions of investors.

One of those impacted, a blue-collar worker named Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), wants answers. He sneaks onto the “Money Monster” set, wields a handgun, straps a bomb vest on Gates and demands answers.

Gates, unfortunately, does not have any. He is basically an entertainer and a shill, more interested in TV than bond ratings.

At first, Gates, with the help of his show’s director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), tries to placate and stall Kyle until the police arrive.

But Budwell locks himself and Gates on the show’s set, denying access to anyone else, except the cameramen.

Slowly, a cat-and-mouse game ensues as Gates and Fenn continually devise diversions to keep Budwell calm, so he does not blow up Gates, himself and the building.

Tentatively, though, Gates and Fenn begin to realize that concrete answers on how a large firm such as Ibis could lose so much money in so short a time need to be addressed and answered.

Quietly, Fenn, with the help of her staff, begins an investigation, while Gates step-by-step transforms from adversary to ally, assuring his angry captor that they will find answers.

The movie, directed by Jodie Foster, methodically builds tension as it gradually unravels its financial jigsaw puzzle.

As piece after piece begins to fall into place, a scheme of greed and monetary immorality is revealed.

“Money Monster” is filled with fine performances, headed by Clooney. He initially presents Gates as a pampered, smarmy and glib host who uses bells and whistles rather than due diligence to pander to his audience, tapping into their desire for wealth.

O’Connell is a smoldering volcano of anger and indignation, demanding answers and wanting the people responsible held accountable.

Roberts has the most difficult role, continually talking into a headset, barking orders to those around her, all the while trying to keep everyone level headed and on point.

The film’s finale is not pretty; in fact, it is rather cynical. But that is refreshing. Not every movie has to close in a sentimental cocoon of tidiness.

Foster and her cast deftly tap into the anger and distrust that is percolating in the country today about Wall Street, big business and the people who run it all.

It’s a movie that may make you think that under the mattress may be the safest and most secure place to keep your savings.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

MONEY MONSTER
3½ stars out of 4
(R), language, violence

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