Starring George Clooney. Rated 14A. Now playing.
If you’ve ever watched Mad Money, the stock analysis show starring the antic, gibbering Jim Cramer, you too may have entertained the fantasy in which an angry lunatic hijacks the set in order to force the host to confess his sins against viewers—or else be blown into little bits.
For the first 20 or so minutes, Money Monster is incredible, setting up this scenario with a glib, smooth George Clooney as Cramer stand-in Lee Gates, Julia Roberts as his unflappable and brilliant director, and Jack O’Connell, sporting an American accent and a suicide vest, as a ruined speculator. Director Jodie Foster plops us into Gates’s world of controlled television chaos, which becomes a place of dark humour as it morphs, in real time, into a hostage crisis.
The MacGuffin of the piece is the $800 million worth of value that suddenly evaporated from a stock that Gates had hyped to the gullible masses. The company insists it is a glitch, while Gates asserts that stock prices are merely figments of public will—that these things just happen.
The idea that a person’s financial ruination is just that arbitrary was covered much better in the epically entertaining The Big Short.
Alas, Money Monster soon settles into a much more conventional and disappointing chase, literally at a walking pace, as the host finds his inner hero and the angry man becomes a folkloric symbol, with meme Vines. Later, someone shouts “He can’t breathe!” to the cops. Gee, thanks for the contemporary references, veteran Hollywood stalwarts!
It’s irrelevant whether the cast and crew make this hunt for the missing money credible and interesting. The problem is presenting the follies of Wall Street as an ordinary crime, the fault of one specific villain who just acted incorrectly. Catch that one guy, and I guess everything is just fine.
Well, it’s a movie.