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MONEY MONSTER

SYNOPSIS: Lee Gates (George Clooney), the host of New York-based TV show, Money Monster, and his producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) find themselves in an extreme situation when an irate investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) who has lost everything, forcefully takes over their studio while the show is on air. During a tense standoff broadcast to millions on live TV, Lee and Patty must work furiously against the clock to unravel the mystery behind a conspiracy at the heart of today's fast-paced, high-tech global markets.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There are two kinds of helplessness which drive the drama in Money Monster: the first is the helplessness of a struggling young man, Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) who has lost his inheritance on a stock market move that relied on the backing of TV host Lee Gates (George Clooney). Gates is the self centred, gaudy equivalent of a celebrity chef with finance, and even more outlandish. He has dancing girls join him for routines to add bling to the show. But when the high flying Ibis Clear Capital stock suddenly slumps $800 million worth, he discovers the other kind of helplessness. Kyle turns up with a deadly delivery and gets right onto the studio floor during the live broadcast and threatens to blow everyone up. He wants to know how and why this happened, and he doesn't want to be fobbed off.

Gates' outer bravado disappears and fear takes over the self congratulatory demeanour of a man whose real persona is not so flash, once he is honest about it. Which he is, in due course, adding a texture to this thriller that gives it above average appeal. It probably accounts for the film being selected for a special Out of Competition screening at Cannes (2026).

George Clooney brings out both sides of Gates' evident personality; the charming and smiling extrovert, and its converse, the darker, flawed character beneath. This is what makes us investors in the film.

Jack O'Connell's Kyle is similarly layered, the desperate, helpless young man who is driven to this extreme act, and the scared little guy inside who has to make an even tougher decision when things go from bad to worse. As he knew they would. As he says so.

Julia Roberts is our POV as the show's producer and multitasking, quick thinking communications interchange for all the players, from Lee and Kyle to the studio crew to the police and to the executives in the beleaguered company at the heart of the story. Roberts has a magnetic screen presence and she gets to make the most of it in a role like this, showing smarts and heart in equal measure.

Dominic West is a clever casting choice as Walt Camby, Ibis CEO and the company's 'greed is good' messenger, his talent for ambiguity in top gear. Pity his character was not better developed, leaving him a rather one dimensional baddie.

Jodi Foster's direction is faultless, squeezing the most out of the solid story as well as all the characters, not just the leads. She understands the importance of detail without making the film fussy.

The studio scenes are riveting and the final sequence that delivers the climax is filled with tension and a satisfying payoff.

Review by Louise Keller:
The shifting nature of relationships is one of the many strengths of this tense, top-drawer thriller that is boosted by the considerable star power of George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Superbly directed by Oscar winner Jodie Foster, the story begins as a live television hostage drama before it evolves into a film with scale, whose ramifications span far beyond New York City, where it is set. Technology is central to the plot: a live TV feed offers an international platform while the complex world of stock market algorithms opens up broader questions. I love the uncertain nature of the action and how the balance of power between the characters changes at different times. I sat on the edge of my seat throughout, never sure of the next twist and totally engaged in the moment.

The film begins in light-hearted fashion as we are introduced to TV finance show host Lee Gates (Clooney) in the milieu that has made him a household name. The show's content might be about money and high finance, but the atmosphere is pure showbiz as Gates dons gaudy costumes and dances hip hop before making his stock market predictions on air. Clooney is terrific: he goes from the bombastic clown who deviates from the script to the conscientious journalist who can make a difference.

As TV director Patty Fenn, Julia Roberts is the voice of reason throughout, communicating with Gates through an ear-piece while calmly keeping her finger on the pulse. She keeps focused on the task at hand while thinking laterally. Roberts brings great authority to the role while managing to retain great vulnerability. This is what endears us to her, especially as the stakes escalate. The natural chemistry and charisma between Roberts and Clooney is a given.

As the catalyst, Kyle (Jack O'Connell) is an interesting adversary because he represents everyman: a struggling hard worker whose life savings is lost overnight due to 'a glitch in the algorithms'. We may not agree with Kyle's methods but we understand his desperation and determination to get a satisfactory answer to the stock market gibberish he has been given. O'Connell is perfect in the role, evolving from a man with no options to one who is determined to push every button available to him - including the one that controls the explosive-packed vest.

There is also a great dynamic between the two key characters from Ibis Capital, the stock-market company whose overnight losses of $800 million are central to the plot. Digital error or one with human fingerprints? Caitriona Balfe (Now You See Me) is excellent as the elegant, articulate company spokesperson, while Dominic West is suitably smarmy as the high-flying CEO.

From the NY television studio to the world of quants in Seoul, a mine in South Africa and the streets of New York where crowds and police squads gather, there is a constant change of setting and reality, each offering its own constraints. It is credit to screenwriters Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf that all the key characters have more than one dimension. Director Foster maintains the tension throughout, aided by smart editing and a subtle but effective music score that seeps into our subconscious. Thrilling, thought provoking and entertaining: a top thriller that delivers.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

MONEY MONSTER (M)
(US, 2016)

CAST: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O'Connell, Dominic West, Ciatriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Denham, Lenny Venito, Chris Bauer

PRODUCER: Lara Alameddine, George Clooney, Daniel Dubiecki, Grant Heslov

DIRECTOR: Jodi Foster

SCRIPT: Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew Libatique

EDITOR: Matt Chesse

MUSIC: Dominic Lewis

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kevin Thompson

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 2, 2016







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