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Money Monster

Year: 2016
Studio: Tristar Pictures
Director: Jodie Foster
Producer: George Clooney/Grant Heslov
Writer: Jamie Linden/Alan DiFiore/Jim Kouf
Cast: Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Jack O'Connell, Dominic West, Catriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito

I'm increasingly starting to think of a Clooney curse. For every Michael Clayton we get a Tomorrowland, for every Gravity we get an Intolerable Cruelty. His record as a director is even worse, because even though he gave us Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck, he was also the brains behind The Monuments Men and Suburbicon.

I knew the premise of this film but had no idea what kind of tone it would take. As I'd seen in the trailer, Clooney plays Lee Gates, a financial advisor with his own TV show, a dreadful ham who mugs for the camera and delivers his stock tips with gimmicks that are are gaudy as they are cheap.

His on-set producer, Patty (Julia Roberts) barely keeps the chaos in check, so when the cameras start rolling and the buffoonery starts, even she barely notices the scruffy young man approaching from across the studio (Jack O'Connell, barely recognisable from Unbroken).

But the man, Kyle, is about to take things in a dark direction when he pulls out a gun, storms the set, takes Lee hostage and demands to be given airtime to speak his greivances. Both he and the character as a script device are a protest against the rapacious one percenters, the people treating global finance like a casino, causing one financial meltdown after another and getting away scot free to get richer next time. While the unhinged madman waves a gun around her studio and threatens to kill her star, Patty has to try and contain it all from the control booth and make sure nobody gets hurt – or worse.

Director Jodie Foster keeps things pretty spare, as if realising that stretching this premise beyond the 98 minute running time would reveal how ridiculous it all is. But even within the unambiguous premise and compact delivery it's a bit of a malformed beast.

It's definitely not funny enough to be a comedy, even though the premise makes you think it's going to be satirical. It's not dramatic enough to be a serious investigation into middle class rage at the way the powers that be routinely make off with the spoils of our hard work. And it's not as scary or threatning as the inciting incident needs to be to make it a thriller. In fact O'Connell as Kyle is kind of a cypher to move the plot forward, not having much to do at all.

Clooney veers between wild-eyed clown and furrow-browed thriller movie victim – both of them jammed uncomfortably together – and the happenstance throughout the whole plot feels too contrived and staged. The big names dragged punters in, and I wonder if they were all too easily pleased.

But here's one unintentionally interesting aspect. You think when Kyle reveals the roots of his hatred of the system it's going to be because his ailing mother couldn't afford health care or the bank foreclosed on his farm or something similarly relatable. But no, he bought sixty grand of shares based on one of Gates' recommendations and the stock imploded. To Hollywood directors, writers and actors, having only a measly $60K in cash lying around to spend on the share market rates as breadline-level poverty.

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