George Clooney and Jack O’Connell lead this entertaining thriller with unfulfilled aspirations of changing America.
Nobody loves political topicality quite like George Clooney. And so, the beloved actor and activist stars in a timely tale of financial corruption and working class rebellion, released in the middle of a heated US election year. Clooney does not, however, occupy the heroic socialist role in Jodie Foster’s film. He is, rather, sleazy TV host Lee Gates, whose Mad Money-style show is hijacked by an angry Queens truck driver wielding a gun and a bomb vest. Jack O’Connell, whose choice of roles since breakout Starred Up has failed to serve his considerable talent, is a standout as Kyle Budwell, who soon begins to regret his course of action. The film would work well as a two-hander between these terrific actors, but there are superfluous contributions from Julia Roberts as a sidelined director, and a gang of Wall St. goons led by Dominic West as the executive responsible for Kyle’s trading misfortune.
While Adam McKay’s Oscar-winning The Big Short was an overcomplicated and inaccessible Wall St. satire, Money Monster simplifies every aspect of the trading world to almost ridiculous effect. This is without a doubt a more enjoyable B-Movie as a result, but that slightly demeaning label is earned with corny dialogue (primarily some classic “motivational speeches” from Clooney) and an entirely implausible third-act that takes the generally very tense action onto the streets of New York, at which point the tension is mostly lost.
One senses that Foster perceives her film as a beacon of social truth that will inspire a revolution against a horrifically flawed financial system that punishes the poor, something it most certainly isn’t. After all, George Clooney ain’t Bernie Sanders.