Grade: B

I’ve heard this film described two ways: poor drama, or decent black comedy. I think it carries shades of both, and becomes something else. There’s a lot of not so gentle ribbing of the way the media inflates and twists things to fit their own agenda, and there’s also a lot of decent performances given by people who were once god-like celebrities.

Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a hack host of a fictional network show called “Money Monster.” It’s Gates’ job to advise viewers on where they should invest their money in the stock market. Patti (Julia Roberts) is the director of “Money Monster.” All the responsibility herding Gates is not worth it, so she’s taken a job at another network’s show. Where the movie picks up is on her last day.

A courier enters the building around the time the show begins. He makes it all the way on to stage (on air). Just as Gates turns to face him, the courier drops the boxes he was carrying, pulls out a gun, and announces what he’s there for: answers.

moneymonster_poster

Turns out that weeks earlier Gates had recommended that his viewers jump and invest in a company called IBIS. We don’t really find out what kind. IBIS then lost 800 million dollars overnight due to a “glitch.” This gunman (Jack O’Connell), who we learn is named Kyle, was one of those loyal viewers.

Over the course of the film, which plays out pretty much in real time, Kyle has Gates as his hostage on air, he even has Gates put on a vest attached to a bomb. Kyle yells both at Gates and at the camera (after he demands they stay live) that he wants real answers as to how this loss could’ve happened. “800 million dollars doesn’t just go away. It’s not just a ‘glitch!’ What does ‘glitch’ even mean!” Patti is in Lee’s ear virtually the entire time, and the two work together through glances in the camera and small bits of information to keep Kyle from fully snapping.

As time passes, Gates starts to see Kyle’s point of view: the person responsible for the shady loss of 800 million is the real enemy. Maybe being faced with death has changed Gates’ mind, and he doesn’t want to just do a fluff business network show, he wants to make a difference in people’s lives, or at least do something before his premature death.

Does this sound like a black comedy? No? There are some funny moments, but that doesn’t make it a black comedy. “Some funny moments” aren’t enough to make it a comedy. I think the reason some people listed it as this is because the premise of “Money Monster” (the show, not the film I’m reviewing) is clearly taking the piss out of real shows just like it on channels like CNN, or MSNBC, and because it’s got Clooney, who no matter what movie you put him in will always find a way to charm.

moneymonster-grabAs a thriller (a genre I did not list above), it mostly works. There are some things you have to forgive, like the shoehorned romance subplot, or the fact that a network would never truly stay live on the air (or is it a comment on how media is so despicable that even if a person’s life is in danger, a channel would stay on the air?).

With those out of your mind, I think you could enjoy this. There are some decent subversions of typical thriller plot, like the way Gates’ change of heart manifests itself, or the tying in of reaction shots from the public in bars, at parties, and in offices.

As for its direction, Foster pretty much plays it all by the thriller rule book, which is fine, but that’s all it is.

Note: It’s criminal that this is billed as a Clooney-Roberts movie. Jack O’Connell plays a much bigger part, one he seems to relish.

The grade above is for a thriller, not a drama or black comedy.

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