Clooney’s TV star is forced to take stock

MM-posterIf you are patient enough to sit through end titles you might notice that the MPAA certificate number at the end of films has now passed 50,000 (if you are curious, number 50,000 was actually a non-entity of a film called “Chloe and Theo”, with “Steve Jobs” missing it by one!). With all those movie plots you would think that there was no new story under the sun. But here comes “Money Monster”- a hostage TV studio drama that I certainly haven’t seen filmed before. For that reason, the writing team (Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf) should be congratulated.

Sexing-up the buck.

George Clooney plays Lee Gates, the smug and self-satisfied star of ‘Money Monster’, a finance-focused TV slot which tries to sex up stocks and shares with some pretty girls and dance routines. Julie Roberts is Patty Fenn, his long-suffering director who is impressed and exasperated by Gates in equal measure. Enter (quietly, stage right) truck driver Kyle Budwell (English-born Jack O’Connell, “Unbroken”) who has a bone to pick with Gates’ financial advice. His bone picking technique involves a loaded handgun and a couple of Semtex-loaded vests. Dragged into the drama is the boss of the stock in question, Walt Camby (Dominic West, “Pride”) and his communications director Diane Lester (Caitrione Balfe).  

With no opportunity to shout “Cut”. Julia Roberts plays the embattled TV director.

There is always a frisson of excitement when the Hollywood royalty of George Clooney and Julia Roberts bat together, and here they don’t disappoint. Both deserve their star billing. Clooney in particular is excellent when he realizes his personal collateral with his remote audience is worth less than $8 per head: a man devastated. 

“Grow some balls”. Clooney about to be dethroned as the king of TV finance.

But this is a great ensemble cast performance, with Christopher Denham (“Argo”) providing ‘stiff’ competition (LOL) for the comedy part and Lenny Venito being effective as Lenny, the last cameraman standing. Irish actress Balfe is also particularly watchable and this exposure should do her career good.

But its O’Connell that has the greatest acting challenge walking a fine line between a despicable terrorist and a pitiable loser. And its a tightrope that is well-walked leading to a touching and effective finale.

Jack O’Connell – with police escort.

The movie is directed by Jodie Foster, last seen in acting mode in Elysium in 2013. And, now with a number of films and TV shows in her directing bag over the last few years, its a role she seems comfortable in.

Dominic West as the CEO of Ibis, a company with a bit of a problem.

It’s an enjoyable and engaging little film (it never feels like making it to an A-grade blockbuster) and while the ‘all bankers are b*stards’ line has been well mined recently (most impressively in “The Big Short”) this manages a novel twist on the theme. The film starts in highly gripping fashion with the studio scenes, although the story wanders off somewhat towards the end and assumes an unrealistic tone (there is surely no way the police forces wouldn’t intervene to limit the potential casualties!).   

A good cinema outing, with star performers at the helm. Recommended. But avoid the standard trailer.

Fad Rating:  FFFF.

In my view, the official trailer had way too many spoilers in it, so (as I did for “Room”) I have recut the trailer into a bob-the-movie-man special cut (below), which I think is much better. Comments welcome if you agree or not!