Money Monster has all the promisings of a high-standard thriller, or good-quality popcorn fair: two of the world’s biggest movie stars as leads, a movie star behind the camera, and a premise based upon the feelings in the global zeitgeist. Unfortunately, however, the film doesn’t quite deliver across its bases.
Money Monster centres around a taping of a financial-advice TV show of the same name that goes horribly wrong when an angry investor (Jack O’Connell) infiltrates the set and holds the host, Lee Gates (George Clooney), hostage. The film details the subsequent stand off as Gates and his producer (Julia Roberts) try to negotiate with the investor as police operations ensue to try and diffuse the situation.
The film begins well; it is pacy and upbeat, promising an engaging story with interesting characters. However, from here, the film never fully fulfils this potential. Whilst successfully building tension intermittently, it never manages to reach that high and maintain it to keep the audience engrossed or on the edge of their seats. Odd cutaways during the film disrupt any tension built, and the progression of the story doesn’t seem strong enough to make up for it. The film also features some comical moments, some of which show off the cast’s comedic skills well, others are moments you may find yourself unsure about whether something is supposed to be funny or whether the events on screen have entered into the realm of the farcical. The moments of high tension redeem the film and keep it entertaining, but the lack of sustained tension you would expect from a hostage thriller means that there is little pay off in the film’s finale as there is no sigh of relief to be had.
The acting in the film is solid and the character arcs interesting. Clooney’s cynical TV host manages to find his humanity as he comes to understand the attacker (and the audience partly does too) as he begins to work more alongside him, however the character himself is never fully realised. There is seemingly no character development for Roberts’ character unfortunately, although the relationship between her and Clooney is an interesting dynamic to insert into the situation. O’Connell’s character is perhaps the most interesting as a villain that the film makes you empathise with (or tries to), elevating its premise a little above the standard thriller by introducing more complexities.
The film’s interesting relationship to modern times (especially to the state of the economy and use of technology) provides an interesting new take on the hostage-thriller genre, but the film itself doesn’t quite manage to maintain the right atmosphere to create a truly great thriller.