Director: Jodie Foster
Cast: Dominic West, George Clooney, Jack O'Connell, Julia Roberts
George Clooney, Julia Roberts and director Jodie Foster on the set of Hollywood film 'Money Monster'
This Jodie (The Beaver) Foster directed hostage drama that had its India release alongside a premiere at Cannes, looks to overcome an iffy title with some high voltage hostage effrontery that makes big banking out to be villains in a world already underlined by the distrust of it. It's an earnest attempt to point out Wall St's strangulating hold on high finance and the thrills thereof are a product of the vicarious volatility affecting the world of business.
Clooney stars as cable news host Lee Gates (loosely modeled on Jim Cramer of CNBC's 'Mad Money'). Lee is a stock-guru, shamelessly promoting his questionable skills with the help of hip-hop backup dancers, wild costumes and goofy sound effects. Lee had his money on Ibis Clear Capital for months but a sudden dip in their fortunes brings the company's Irish Corporate Communications officer Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe) as live feed via satellite and Lee is shown to be preparing for a particularly delicate Q&A routine that is stage-managed to keep the Company high on the investor agenda.
Lee's show is aired live and all the mechanics of a live TV operation are on in full flow. Editor Matt Chesse deftly cuts between the broadcast and the control booth in an effort to capture the controlled chaos of live TV while showing Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), Lee's long suffering producer who is already planning her out from this crazed set-up, feeding Lee his lines through his ear-piece. Director Jodie Foster sets the film in an approximation of real time and the mechanics of it ups the thrills and drums up the entertainment quotient.
The opening few moments of the film are its most intense. Especially when the hooded deliveryman (unnoticed in the hullabaloo of live presentation) slinks in flashing his gun and takes the crew hostage. And before much ado he forces Lee into a bomb-vest. We are then informed that the hooded gunman Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell), is a minimum wage-earning factotum from Queens who lost his entire savings due to Lee's stock advice. He threatens to destroy the whole studio unless Ibis gives him a satisfactory explanation for the so-called “computer glitch” that sent its stock price tumbling.
Lee tries his best to out-think Kyle but his charms are more incendiary than calming. Patty tries to get close in, moving the cameras around for a better shot, Diane is desperately trying to locate her boss, Ibis' jet-setting CEO (Dominic West) and while the world is watching this live fiasco, there's NYPD chief (Giancarlo Esposito) shown to be strategizing a SWAT raid. The set-up is prime fodder for a high-voltage excitement and delivers quite handsomely too.
But as the standoff gets more involved the suspension of disbelief gets more and more difficult. Foster's directorial skills fail to hold it altogether after a point. Sudden unexpected and outlandish plot elements make the going precarious and the ultimate resolution fails to pass the plausibility test. 'Money Monster' thematically follows in the foot-steps of 'The Big Short' while aping 'Dog Day Afternoon' in its thrill sets – but the smoothly integrated mash-up fails to drive home its cautionary message meant to highlight the dangers of playing the stock market. The growing implausibility of the narrative demands a rather high degree of suspension of disbelief from the viewer. The film is tautly drawn and the suspense is nail-bitingly assured but the narrative elements fail to stand-up to closer scrutiny. Jodie's sincerity though, comes through quite clearly as do that of the A list cast that do the honors in bringing to life this straining-to-stay-above-board genre flick.
Watch the trailer of 'Money Monster'