"Money Monster" could best be described as a cross between "Wall Street" and "Air Force One" with enough elements to rival those two, but it manages to stand on its own for most of its running time.
Like "Wall Street" itself, it delivers typical risks, but also some thoroughly satisfying rewards.
George Clooney stars as Lee Gates, a financial guru with his own TV program titled "Money Monster," and Julia Roberts is his producer. During a live episode, his TV station is hijacked by an angry young man named Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell from "Unbroken") who believes that Clooney cost him a great deal of money in an investment that went sour and he wants to know why.
The rest of the movie divides its time in real time as Clooney and Roberts try to deal with the situation and the NYPD is busy attempting to negotiate with Kyle, and to help him get his money. Again, he doesn’t want money. He just wants to know why his investment went south.
The movie provides a lot of unexpected moments of humor in the midst of the chaos, including Kyle’s girlfriend berating him while still on the air as well as showing earlier episodes of Clooney doing his best rapper impersonation. It’s actually funny stuff.
Director Jodie Foster is quite terrific at keeping a thrilling, suspenseful pace for the majority of the movie’s 90-minutes, as well as finding a great degree of moral ambiguity for the O’Connell character. Is he vengeful for his loss or is there something going on beneath the surface motivating his actions?
There’s also a lot of talk about different business ventures turning on a dime, and there’s a key sequence involving Clooney literally begging his viewers to save his life by buying as much of a particular stock as possible. The results are terrifying, and it earns it moments. It’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the forehead on using metaphors post-2008.
Still, for all its complex metaphors, "Money Monster" is a solid, well-acted, well-crafted thriller that grabbed my attention. In a summer that will no doubt be bombarded by blockbusters, it’s nice to see some adult-oriented fare that makes us think and presents top-notch entertainment.
(Rated R for language throughout, some sexuality, and brief violence.)
Hall is a syndicated columnist in South Georgia.