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This ‘Money Monster’ Is Pretty Tame (Movie Review)

money monster thumbAs nice as it may be to champion an original thriller with big movie stars and some relevant themes, Money Monster doesn’t do much to challenge the audience. That’s not necessarily required, but when a studio has the audacity to title a film Money Monster, you should be expecting more bite. There is a somewhat entertaining film here, but it seems like there should be more, given the talent involved.

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George Clooney stars as Lee Gates, a financial TV personality who offers up stock advice on the show ‘Money Monster’. Gates begins a day, ready for another taping, with his director Patty (Julia Roberts) ready to guide him along, until everything falls apart. A disgruntled financial loser, Kyle (Jack O’Connell), has apparently lost all his money due to a bad stock tip and has come to the studio with a gun and a bomb to hold Gates hostage on live television.

Coming a few months after The Big Short and around the 10th anniversary of Inside Man, you can definitely get an idea of what this thriller is like when channeling the energy from those two movies. You can reach back further to something like Dog Day Afternoon for good measure as well, but just know that Money Monster has pretty clear intentions. It is a film depicting a panic-worthy situation, where the audience must grasp to the little that is known and try to side with what makes the most sense.

A film like this always has an interesting way of playing with expectations, as you don’t necessarily want to side with the guy with a gun, but you are invested in what he is trying to accomplish. Meanwhile, Clooney is his charming self, but he is playing the kind of TV host who has so many obvious flaws. Fortunately the film supplies itself with an out, which is also its undoing.

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Jodie Foster (who co-starred in Inside Man) directs the film with plenty of immediacy, as we travel through these events all taking place within a single day and rarely featuring moments that slow the film down. It is enough to hold your attention, but also asks you not to think too hard about what is going on. If you do, that’s when you see how the film fails to be more interesting.

As mentioned, Clooney plays a flawed TV host and while Kyle takes him hostage, the film has another direction to go, as far as where the blame really lies. I won’t dig too far into it, but instead of seeing a film that effectively gets into why guys like Kyle can be pushed to their wits end, we get an explanation for why things happened, with a bland villain to go with it. It all feels very Hollywood.

If Money Monster were a B-movie with lesser star power, that could be easier to digest, but with Foster, Clooney and Roberts on board, I have to wonder if they ever thought they were involved in a film more invested in how the basic plot ties into the real world. We have a minimal amount of work done to establish the world of this film, but it has so little too offer as far as the big picture.

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But hey, that’s fine if it doesn’t choose to go that route. If Money Monster simply aspired to be an uncomplicated hostage thriller, so be it. With that in mind though, there are still holes aplenty that make a film like this hard to accept. While people panic and don’t know how to react in certain stressful situations, we still have to believe in a fairly inept police force (headed by a wasted Giancarlo Esposito) and some amazing research skills from the team in the booth, who are broadcasting this whole debacle. It is a lot to take in.

Logic holes and idiot plot aside, the film is not devoid of entertainment value. It is genuinely well-acted, as far as the leads go. Clooney isn’t breaking new ground, but he’s a solid presence as usual. Roberts plays well in balancing her emotions over the situation with her duties as a director. O’Connell may be playing up an accent, but you can see desperation in his presence that makes me continue to hope he goes on to bigger and brighter things (check him out in Starred Up and ‘71). There is also a level of humor the film never forgets, while allowing a whirlwind of camera work to play up both the tense situation and the guise of a financial show like this.

Ideally this film would have dared to dig a little deeper into why someone would go to these lengths, based on the economic situation of America, rather than provide an easy way out. Money Monster is not that film, but it is not much else either. It is the kind of thriller you see and don’t think too much about afterward. There is enjoyment to be had in seeing how this thing plays out, but little else. It’s a quick-paced flick, but this monster never really roars.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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