Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a Wall Street guru who picks hot stocks as host of the television show “Money Monster.” During a live broadcast, disgruntled investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) storms onto the set and takes Gates hostage. He tells Gates that he lost everything on one of his tips. As Gates tries to plead with Budwell, he’s also using an earpiece to communicate with his longtime producer, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) in the control room. Together they must figure out a way to defuse the situation and disarm Kyle Budwell.
One aspect this film isn’t lacking is star power featuring A-listers George Clooney, Julia Roberts and director Jodie Foster. If that wasn’t enough (for me it is and should be for anyone), it also comes to us at a opportune time with the world still under financial crisis. This theme started with The Big Short and is still the case now. So people may relate to the man who stormed the financial show which could be one of its main drawing points. Some may want to see the so-called financial “talking heads” getting their comeuppance.
The film wastes no time clocking in at 98 minutes. We are introduced to the dynamic between Gates and Fenn. They had great chemistry here, and it probably would not have worked as well if they weren’t Clooney or Roberts in the roles. Their relationship felt real and believable.
The third part of the trio here was the disgruntled investor named Kyle Budwell (O’Connell). He arrived a little too abruptly here, which also speaks to the film’s short running time. His character could have been fleshed out a little more to give greater weight to his motives, but that’s just a minor gripe. What we receive is still clear enough, but it could have gone further; we never really got a true sense of how this hurt him personally. Despite that, he still came off as very likeable and people could easily relate to him for reasons previously mentioned.
Not only did Clooney and Roberts have great chemistry, Clooney and O’Connell had great chemistry as well — a vital component to the film as Gates and Budwell spent a bulk of the film together. Gates starts off as an arrogant blowhard, but wains away as his life becomes compromised. His character progression was compelling to watch. He went from trying to save his own life to genuinely caring for Budwell. His compassion leads Gates to look within himself to understand how he and his TV persona are perceived. Budwell never waned in his search for answers as nothing was ever good enough. This forced the film to dig further and further making the film more intriguing.
Of course we all know how it was going to end, but the film still remained very watchable as it was full of suspense and intrigue while trying to remain honest. Don’t expect this one to explain the financial crisis as a whole since the film never goes into it with too much depth. While the film has intense moments, it also has some lighter moments helping to make things more grounded.
What could have ended up just okay and cliche was elevated by the three lead performances of Clooney, Roberts and O’Connell. Overall, this was a great, suspenseful film led by great performances but still doesn’t go as far as it could have.
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