George Clooney, Jack O’Connell and Cenk Uygur star in Money Monster, not to be confused with the Honey Monster – though like Sugar Puffs, the film is enjoyable at the time but ultimately unsatisfying.
During a live broadcast of a financial TV show, a disgruntled gunman (O’Connell) takes the host (Clooney) hostage. It’s like a cross between Network and Dog Day Afternoon, but this is very much Lumet-lite. There are a lot of ideas (TV satire, Wall Street critique, hostage movie) that never quite gel. The implausible hostage stuff undermines the film’s political thrust, resulting in a movie that’s less than the sum of its parts.
But there’s plenty here to enjoy. Jodie Foster directs with pace and tension – having worked on film sets since childhood, she’s clearly learnt a couple of tricks. Clooney is on form as a TV guy, like Good Night, and Good Luck only less… good. O’Connell is watchable as ever, making us sympathise with the gunman despite his violence and appearances on Skins and Dive. And following recent discussion on this blog about the way Hollywood ignores the victims of Wall Street’s recklessness, it’s heartening to see a movie that addresses that side of things – even if it is rather silly.
The film has fun subverting many hostage movie tropes while upholding many others. Perhaps it’s this sense of compromise that holds the film back. Or maybe it just pales in comparison to Spike Lee’s Inside Man (featuring Foster herself), which excels as a nail-biting hostage movie with great wit and political substance. Money Monster never reaches that level, but is it a fun thriller? Of course!