Director: Jodie Foster Stars: George Clooney, Julia Roberts Rating: R
Here’s something that makes no sense: A movie about corruption on Wall Street starring George Clooney is more pulpy than preachy, even goofy. In “Money Monster,” lessons about unregulated brokers take up a modicum of real estate, but it’s a pittance compared to bigger questions: Will the cops thwart a working class antihero (Jack O’Connell of “Unbroken”) who’s taken a Jim Cramer-style TV stocks guru (Clooney) hostage? Or are we supposed to root for him to survive? Will his potentially fatal antics expose the real baddie, a hedge fund greed freak (Dominic West)? Unlike most genre entries with a lefty bent, “Money Monster” actually seems like it forgot to place message over the goods, to our benefit.
But this isn’t just a nailbiter, albeit a frequently preposterous one. Director Jodie Foster takes a page from one of her acting gigs — Spike Lee’s bank heist great “Inside Man” — and gives it real personality. It’s a film of jokes and verve, and it’s quick to make Clooney’s egomaniacal TV god look like an idiot. Neither male protagonist comes off well, not even O’Connell’s working class semihero, who spouts the film’s only block of righteous anger but still quickly comes off like a Regular Joe in way, way over his head.
The real bada— is the show’s director, played by Julia Roberts. Once again the star proves she’s eked out an underappreciated second life as dry and amusingly remote, as opposed to toothy and giggly. Coolly keeping a lid on things from the control booth, she’s like Foster: someone able to take what could be a heinous situation — in this case an inane thriller with pretensions of grandeur — and make it charming and alive.
George Clooney isn’t afraid to look stupid in Jodie Foster’s thriller “Money Monster.”