“Money Mon­ster”

Metro USA (Boston) - - WKND - MATT PRIGGE

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.

AT­SUSHI NISHIJIMA

Ge­orge Clooney isn’t afraid to look stupid in Jodie Foster’s thriller “Money Mon­ster.”

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