Neither George Clooney nor Julia Roberts has had a box office winner in the past few years. Their latest, Money Monster, won’t be one, either. The film, directed by Jodie Foster, is a strange hybrid – part comedy, part thriller, part farce. Still, anyone hoping to avoid superhero films this season could do worse than spending 90-plus minutes watching two seasoned actors take on Wall Street.
Clooney plays Lee Gates, an over-the-top version of CNBC’s Jim Cramer, doling out stock tips while wearing a silver vest emblazoned with dollar signs and kicking up his heels with a pair of dancers dressed in gold. No one sees what he does as serious business reporting, including the show’s producer, Patty Fenn (Roberts), who is on her way out, having accepted a job at another news outlet.
The stuff hits the fan when a disgruntled viewer, Kyle Bidwell (Jack O’Connell, doing an acceptable Queens accent), shows up on the set with a gun and forces Gates to put on a vest loaded with explosives. Kyle, a minimum wage delivery person, got caught up in Gates’s enthusiasm for Ibis Clear Capital and lost his entire savings, $60,000, when the company’s stock tanked virtually overnight. Ibis’s CEO, Walt Camby (Dominic West), is blaming the loss on a computer glitch, leaving it to his communications director, Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe), to face the press. Before Gates can interview Lester, he’s taken hostage. Kyle wants answers and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to hold someone accountable.
While the NYPD closes in, Gates slowly comes over to Kyle’s side. And when Fenn, aided by the show’s other reporters, begins to turn up evidence that Camby is covering up what really happened at Ibis, Gates risks his life to do what he’s rarely done – get the real story.
While Clooney certainly has a sense of comic timing, that quality doesn’t come through here. He’s better during the film’s serious moments. Roberts is the heart of the film, directing the action on the set, feeding questions to Gates, and defying the police by staying in the studio after the evacuation.
Money Monster is a soft jab at Wall Street, certainly not in the same league as The Big Short or The Wolf of Wall Street. Yet it hits screens at a perfect time, with voters like Kyle still asking questions about the haves versus the have-nots.
Money Monster opens nationwide on May 13, 2016.