MOVIE BUFF-ET: Passionless ‘Money Monster’ meanders to a predictable end

Giancarlo Esposito and George Clooney in Money Monster / TriStar Pictures

Money Monster is a workman-like effort by director Jodie Foster and her stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts in a thriller that strives for more resonance than its nuts-and-bolts construction can provide. Ultimately the movie’s incredible scenario winds up being more pedestrian than surprising.

It’s a shame, too, because the talent involved lends the film a pedigree that it fails to earn.

New In Local Theaters

  • Money Monster (R) 1 hr., 35 mins.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer
  • The Darkness (PG-13) 1 hr., 32 mins.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers)
    » Watch trailer
  • Sing Street (PG-13) 1 hr., 46 mins.
    (Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer
  • The Jungle Book (112 Drive Inn) (PG), 1 hr., 45 mins
    8:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday
    » Watch trailer
  • Huntsman: Winters War (112 Drive Inn) (PG-13) 1 hr., 54 mins.
    10:45 p.m. Friday-Sunday
    » Watch trailer

Foster’s proven to be a capable director with several features under her belt as well as directing well-received episodes of House of Cards and Tales from the Darkside. Though Clooney and Roberts are a bit long in the tooth, they are bona fide stars, who can act.

They still have the it factor, and both have several strong moments despite the fact the film’s plot conspires to keep them apart except for the opening and closing moments.

The film mines the plots of better films like Dog Day Afternoon and Network, however, both of those films seem fresher despite being made four decades ago.

The movie tries to play on the remaining fear, anger, and distrust of Wall Street after the 2007 housing market crash. Those wounds are still fresh to many, but the movie somehow misses its intended mark.

Clooney plays egomaniacal Lee Gates, a Jim Cramer-like host of a cable-TV financial show called Money Monster. Roberts is his trusty but put-upon producer Patsy Finn, who is so fed up with Lee’s antics that she’s about to depart the show for the green pastures of the network’s chief competitor.

On the fateful day that we get to be flies on the wall, Gates has to explain why a stock that he had been bullish on tanked to the tune of $800 million. Gates attempts to dance around the subject until Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), an investor who lost all of his $60,000 inheritance in the crash, sneaks onto the set while the show is taping.

Kyle’s armed with a pistol and forces Clooney to wear a vest that’s loaded with enough explosives to blow the building to kingdom come. He demands answers from Clooney on live TV, but the host has none. Behind the scenes Roberts and her production crew race against Kyle’s patience to find answers that might soothe him.

Certainly, viewers can understand Kyle’s situation, and while his method is flat-out crazy, his questions about the stock and its drop are not. However, understanding doesn’t equal empathy, and the film really needs its audience to feel for Kyle on a gut level to get past his terroristic actions. Unfortunately the character doesn’t earn that empathy. Sure, he’s downtrodden and pathetic, but nothing could really justify his actions.

As much anger as the film attempts to display, it really seems to just go through the motions as it meanders to the only ending anyone could expect. Maybe the best scene in the movie comes when people who have been watching the drama unfold on televisions all around the world just go back to what they were doing without a moment’s thought when the TV broadcast ends.

If society is truly that calloused, it’s going to take a movie made with more passion than Money Monster to prompt any lasting reaction.
Grade: C

Classic Corner

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

In coordination with Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies, the Malco Razorback Theater will feature two special showings of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday.

As the traditional school year winds down, no doubt many students would love to take a day off and head off to their favorite city for no-holds barred fun as Bueller (Matthew Broderick), his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and buddy Cameron (Alan Ruck) do in this raucus1986 comedy, written, directed, and produced on a shoe-string budget by John Hughes.

Another star of the film is the city of Chicago itself, and the movie stands as a love letter to the Windy City. The movie is infectiously fun, and arguably remains Broderick’s best on-screen performance.

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is not the first slasher film, nor is it the best or even the scariest slasher film, but it does feature Kevin Bacon. And most everyone loves bacon.

I’m not a fan of slasher films in the least, but along with John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece Halloween, Friday the 13th did help establish a sub-genre of film that persists nearly 40 years later.

The character of Jason Vorhees is stamped on our collective consciousness because of the popularity and novelty of this franchise that spawned a dozen films and TV series. I wouldn’t try to convince you that the movie is great, but if you like scary movies or consider yourself a true movie buff, it is worthy of being consumed, particularly today.