MONEY MONSTER – Review by Susan Granger

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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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.