‘Money Monster’ Shortchanges Suspense

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?

Julia Roberts-MM-680

Photo by Atsushi Nishijima – ©2016 CTMG, Inc. (Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment inc.)

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.


Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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July 2024