It’s been a couple of decades since Wall Street told us that “greed is good”. But human beings have short memories. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, we learn that those most accountable – the wheelers and dealers who created money out of nothing and then were caught out when that artificial wealth disappeared – got away scott-free. But when do our own responsibilities come into play? Are we, as human beings, so gullible that we just fall for the same tricks over and over again? Or perhaps it is simple greed – the desire to make a quick buck?
At the most basic level, Money Monster is a thriller – an intense drama where an ordinary man, Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) who has lost everything simply wants to know how a “sure thing” investment could disappear in one day. Believing that he has nothing left to lose, Budwell manages to sneak into a television studio with a suicide vest and a gun and interrupts the live broadcast of a financial advice show, taking its flamboyant host, Lee Gates (George Clooney) and its crew, including director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), hostage.
Budwell wants answers from not only Gates, whose advice led to him sinking his life savings into IBIS Capital, but also from the CEO of IBIS, Walt Camby (Dominic West) who blames the company’s $800 million loss on a glitch in their algorithm used in their trading system. As Budwell continues to threaten Gates and asks for answers, Patty has to deal with what can only be described as a team of head-scratching, in-fighting and incompetent police officers led by Captain Powell (Giancarlo Esposito). At the same time it looks like she and Gates are the only ones interested in finding the truth, beginning with Camby who has gone MIA, leaving his Chief Communications Officer, Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe) to tow the company line.
All of this action is being broadcast live around the world in pubs, restaurants, homes, frat parties with everyone following the action like the voyeurs that we are. They cheer and jeer at their television sets and you can never be sure whose side they are on. Despite the potential for an explosion, crowds gather outside the studio on the streets of New York. What do they hope to see? When they look at the desperation of Budwell, do they think that that could have been them holding the gun, the man who has already lost everything?
Director Jodie Foster takes us on this journey with Clooney and Roberts as two professionals doing what they do best. I absolutely adore watching these two on screen together. Unfortunately, in making Patty and Lee into the “heroes” of the story, the movie also manages to make just about everyone else seem incompetent. As much as I enjoyed the tension built up through the 98 minutes, there are many plot holes that are too large to ignore.
For example, how does an armed man just casually sneak into a building through a loading dock? With all the technology available, why couldn’t Patty have merely switched off the external broadcast feed and only showed the feed on the monitors inside the studio Gates and Budwell are in? How does a company CEO go MIA in a private jet that apparently has filed no manifests with the FAA? Don’t even get me started on how a hostage negotiator could treat the situation with such contempt that he almost got everyone killed within thirty seconds of opening his mouth?
Overall, the performances are fantastic, as one would expect from a cast of this calibre. They all did the best they could with the material they were given. There could have been a lot more to this if we examine the motivations behind everyone’s actions, but it might be a little too much to ask of an audience who is not interested in self-examination or trying to understand the mumble-jumble of the world of finance.
Money Monster opens on 2 June across Australia.