“Money Monster:” There’s a Killer in the Studio

by Danny Stout

Jodie Foster applies the same intelligence that established her as an Oscar-winning actor to directorship of Money Monster, a taut fast-moving suspense thriller. It revolves around a cable TV business program anchor, Lee Gates (George Clooney) that implores viewers to invest in a particular stock. Unfortunately for buyers, a computer glitch in the stock algorithm results in $800 million in losses across thousands of portfolios. What happened? What is an algorithm, and why did it cause me to lose my life savings?

These are the questions of livid if not berserk Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) that storms a live broadcast of Money Matters with guns and a bomb detonation vest that orders Gates to wear. Millions are watching this live from the New York City studio.

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Technical director (Julia Roberts) directs with Gates through an undetectable earphone. In a particularly tense moment, she tells him what to say word-for-word to the terrorist. Clooney and Roberts try to out-act each other, but O’Connell shines as working class laborer that’s his life’s savings. The anemic economic situation plaguing our country contributes to the film’s realism.

A heated yet delicate conversation between Gates and Budwell is a turning point. “What makes your life so s____y compared to anyone else’s?” Gates demands, disclosing a litany of his own problems: failed marriages and a daughter he’s never met. Budwell furiously rejects this ploy.” “I make fourteen dollars an hour! There’s nothing after paying rent, and I’ve got a pregnant girlfriend. What about her?”

By now, she’s on a monitor rabid with anger: “You loser! You lost all your mother’s money, how stupid, you f_____g failure!” Not exactly the approach the police were hoping for, as Budwell sinks further into deranged hopelessness. “She’s right! She’s right!” he screams repeatedly.

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Foster works the nuanced script competently, but Money Monster isn’t likely to make the canon of great suspense movies. Dramatic tension could could have been higher, but how do you kill off George Clooney and Julia Roberts? Audience members know you can’t. How little people know about the technology of investments is much scarier. How investment companies keep us guessing is the ethical question that makes this film worth seeing.

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