The world is so crazy that it’s tough for social satirists to devise anything more absurd than what we see in our daily news reports. That’s just one of the problems with Money Monster, a Network wannabe that lacks the razor’s edge of Paddy Chayefsky’s writing and isn’t nearly as potent (or prescient) as that 1976 gem.
Instead of Peter Finch’s news anchor Howard Beale we have a Jim Cramer-like TV investment guru (George Clooney) who has more bluster than wisdom. His show is held together by his unflappable director (Julia Roberts), who also functions as his ad hoc producer and protector. When a disgruntled investor (Jack O’Connell) turns up in his studio with a gun and an explosive jacket that he forces the host to wear, matters quickly come to a boiling point.
Or do they?
The set-up in this script, credited to Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, and Jim Kouf, stretches credibility but could conceivably take place. And there’s no question that a live broadcast of a hostage crisis would have the world tuning in. But while Money Monster is slick and watchable, it never builds the kind of suspense it rightfully ought to. An unstable man may blow Clooney and Roberts to kingdom come: shouldn’t that generate a fair amount of tension?
Director Jodie Foster expertly captures the nuts and bolts of live television broadcasting and sparks the proceedings with a rapid-fire editing style. But somehow, the ticking-clock tautness that the movie promises never takes hold. Is it because we can finger the real villain of the piece so early on? Or that we don’t believe a mainstream Hollywood movie is going to kill off two big-time stars?
Whatever the case, Money Monster works primarily as a vehicle for its high-profile actors, but fails to deliver as a thriller or a satire. Too bad.