If you’re tired of watching superheroes do comic-book stunts, invest in this intriguing new thriller. Directed by Jodie Foster, it’s taut, tantalizing and timely. Financial guru/cable show host Lee Gates (George Clooney) bears more than a passing resemblance to Jim Cramer of CNBC’s “Mad Money.” Flanked by hip-hop backup dancers, he hands out stock tips, accompanied by silly sound effects. Read on…
Fed up with his self-promoting shenanigans, Lee’s long-suffering director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) is ready to take another job across town.
When Ibis Clear Capital, a company Gates has heavily hyped, takes a nosedive, losing $800 million, and its globe-trotting CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West) abruptly cancels an appearance, Ibis’s corporate communications officer, Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe), attempts to explain the anomaly, “a computer glitch,” via satellite.
Suddenly, the broadcast is commandeered by gun-toting Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), who snuck into the Manhattan studio posing as a deliveryman. Taking Lee and his crew hostage, Budwell hijacks the show, forcing fast-talking Lee into an explosive-packed vest, keeping the switch clutched in his hand.
Budwell just lost all his money – $60,000 – on Ibis. Harking back to the outrage of Sidney Lumet’s “Network” (1976), Budwell is “mad as hell” and wants an explanation.
Working from a humorous, if somewhat contrived screenplay by Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf, director Jodie Foster astutely acknowledges the ticking clock while slyly delving into the characters’ complexity, particularly Clooney’s cocky, caustic TV pundit who realizes that he’s become a puppet in a rigged game.
Confined to the control booth most of the time, whispering into terrified Lee’s ear piece, Julia Roberts is compelling as the film’s moral compass, while the duplicity unravels in real time. Their love/hate chemistry is clearly reminiscent of Jeff Daniels/Emily Mortimer’s in TV’s “Newsroom.”
Foster’s stalwart supporting cast includes Emily Meade, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Denham, Condola Rashad and Lenny Venito.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Money Monster” is an edgy, exciting 8, made even more relevant by Wall Street’s computerized algorithms and high-frequency trading.