CANNES 2016 – Money Monster (2016)


“We don’t do gotcha journalism here,” says Patty Fenn (a commanding Julia Roberts), producer of the flashy, financially-focused cable show ‘Money Monster’, “hell, we don’t do journalism period”. Today, however, it looks like she’s going to have to make an exception, owing to the fact that irate investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), who has been left penniless after gambling away his very limited fortune on a financial tip made by the show’s host Lee Gates (George Clooney), has just stormed the set brandishing a gun and a bomb vest.

Some weeks back Lee, a flamboyant fiscal guru, encouraged his viewers to buy as many stocks as they could in a high-frequency trading company owned by Wall-Street wiz Walt Canby (Dominic West). But the business quickly proceeded to lose $800 million due to an apparent “glitch” in the system, and now Kyle is, quite rightly, demanding answers.

This is actor-turned-director Jodie Foster’s first time directing a thriller, and she does so with maximum style but minimal substance. It’s a tense film, reminiscent of Speed in its strongest moments, but neither as telling nor intelligent as it believes itself to be. Foster and her trio of screenwriters (Alan Di Fiore, Jim Kouf and Jamie Linden) attempt to merge socioeconomic debate – the overuse of slick graphics and newscast clips is clearly designed to give a veneer of topicality – with small-screen satire; the script regurgitating ideas we’ve seen explored with far greater resonance in the likes of Margin Call and Network.

Thanks to the strong performances though, there’s still plenty to capitalise on. Clooney renders Gates with just the right amount of complacency in the film’s early stages, ensuring his character remains on the right side of cocky throughout; although he’s hard to swallow in more vulnerable moments, which are routinely signposted simply by a slumping of the shoulders. But from the moment he appears on the stage, this is a show that belongs to Jack O’Connell, his troubled disposition and live-wire temper are hostile & intimidating (despite the wavering accent), but crucially not explicitly antagonistic: Foster is, thankfully, smart enough to ensure Kyle is never hallmarked as a real baddie – that honour falls to Dominic West, a corrupt CEO with an arrogance so aggressively serpentine you practically expect him to start hissing at any moment.

It’s just about the only thing that is intelligent though, in a popcorn picture that’s quick to shun current affairs in favour of conventional conspiracy cinema that comes complete with a cloyingly convoluted conclusion. For all your investment, the payout here is pretty worthless.

Director: Jodie Foster
Writers: Jamie Linden (screenplay), Alan DiFiore (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
Stars: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell
Runtime: 98 mins
Country: USA

Film Rating: ★★½☆☆

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