It’s not clear whether director Jodie Foster is trying to position Money Monster as a thriller, a comedy or an exposé of Wall Street darkness, because unlike The Big Short, it is neither exciting, funny or revealing. George Clooney is Lee Gates, a big-talking financial TV show host, who misled his viewers into investing in trading fund Ibis, which lost US$800 million overnight. He is taken hostage during his show by Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), a young father-to-be who lost all his money in the fund. While buying time to keep Budwell from detonating a bomb, Gates and show director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) try to get to the bottom of where the money went.
It’s hard to become invested in the film because the characters’ inconsistent nature make the storyline pretty unconvincing. One moment Gates is close to having a heart attack, the next he has everything under control, while Ibis communications chief Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe) suddenly finds her conscience. It’s also a waste of acting talent, as Fenn and Budwell are reduced to one-dimensional characters facing little emotional tension throughout. Portraying Budwell as an amateur also kept stakes low.
Throw in several anti-climaxes, and the audience is laughing where Foster would have hoped they’d be biting their nails. But, it’s still fun to watch Clooney boogieing in a party hat.