Hard Currency: Our Review of ‘Money Monster’ on DVD

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Movies by - September 06, 2016
Hard Currency: Our Review of ‘Money Monster’ on DVD

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In more ways than one, greed kills.

The raw drama and avarice that are on display in the halls of power and in the money markets around the world is even at the best of times; disgusting but it also speaks to the very nature of humanity and our destructive need to want to acquire and consume as much as we possibly can.  Money Monster tries to paint a human face on the blind destructive power of greed but it only half gets there as we struggle to genuinely care as it ends up a little too simplistic in order to genuinely resonate on any level.

Business is booming for Lee Gates (George Clooney) the over the top, charismatic host of “Money Monster” a popular financial network show that has made him the Wall Street Money wiz in the eyes of most average Americans.  However even Lee can’t be right all the time and when one of his can’t miss high tech stocks mysteriously crashes a desperately irate investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) takes Gates, his crew and his producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) hostage live on the air for the world to see.  Gates and Fenn have to fight for their lives because Kyle doesn’t care about getting his money back he just wants the one thing that no one ever thinks to ask for on Wall Street; the truth about how $800 Million dollars can disappear in seconds with no rhyme or reason as to why.

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In what could best be described as a streamlined version of last year’s Academy Award winning The Big Short; Money Monster works well enough as an effective little thriller but loses focus when it tries to comment on some of the bigger issues surrounding the money markets of the world and the impunity that they operate under as the corporate and consumer greed for bigger and better returns get lost in the shuffle.

While admittedly not the first thing you’d think of for Jodie Foster’s first feature in five years, she crafts an effective little narrative that goes where it needs to without to much effort as it crafts some genuine tension, effectively using the confines of a TV studio to her advantage.  Sadly though, the script ultimately lets her good work down as the screenplay by Jamie Linden, Alan DiFore and Jim Kouf doesn’t have a lot of zip to it.  A good chunk of the dialogue is fairly bland and the characters are a little underdeveloped even at the best of times in the movie, we care about them but we are also not that sure why.  Any time it tries to be biting or even socially relevant it comes off as clunky and harsh.  It can’t decide if it wants to sell itself as genuine tension or as social commentary on everything from the news networks to the halls of Wall Street itself.  There’s ultimately nothing wrong with it, but instead of trying to bring a little nuance and emotional complexity to a very complex issue it just finds the path of least resistance and draws a straight line through it all for us to follow.  I get why it was done that way, but thanks to some haphazard casting it never quite works the way it should.

Even when he is trying to be smarmy and callous, you still can’t help but like George Clooney.  He’s fine as the bombastic Gates but it always feels a little forced even in those closer moments when he is trying to be genuine.  This feels like something James Woods was supposed to play back in the day, but Clooney’s overall charm ultimately works against him as the character never feels genuine.  Julia is simply Julia playing counter point to him, but again the character development in all of this basically nil and other then both actor’s obvious on screen charm, neither really has much to work with and in yet another missed opportunity, Jack O’Connell as Kyle just doesn’t work as every American film out there tries to have him tack on an American accent of some sort and it’s just not something that is in his wheel house and he needs a main stream movie that will let him be himself.  Clooney and O’Connell work well enough together but the shifting tone of the narrative makes it hard to know, who to care for and who to root for during the first 2/3rds of the movie  Dominic West, Caitronia Balfe and Giancarlo Esposito round out the ensemble.MoneyMonster

Special Features on the DVD include deleted scenes, three behind the scenes featurettes and a Dan The Automator (feat Del The Funky Homospaien) “What Makes The World Go ‘Round (MONEY!) music video.

Ultimately, Money Monster may have clicked more if it had come out before The Big Short (or if you just didn’t understand it) because while it is an effective piece of entertainment in the moment, it really doesn’t have a whole lot that will stick with you.

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This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.

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