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Money Monster •••

Money_Monster_posterStarring: George Clooney,  Julia Roberts,  Jack O’Connell
Director: Jodie Foster
Screenplay: Jamie Linden,  Alan DiFiore
Crime/Drama/Thriller, Rated: R
Running Time: 98 minutes
Release Date: May 13, 2016


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Scott, it’s time for the newest PBS/HBO Sesame Street character Money Monster.

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Wrong movie, Greg. This monster is all too human and realistic, I’m afraid, Let’s recap.

We’re introduced to Lee Gates (George Clooney) a financial personality who has a daily show on the Financial News Network (FNN). He tells people the hottest tips for investing. In his ear is his producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) who has secretly taken a new job, because Gates is such a pain in the ass. They’re putting on their latest dazzling display of financial wizardry leading with the story of IBiS Global’s loss of $800 Million due to a computer “glitch.”

In the middle of Gates’s show, a young man named Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) breaks into the studio and takes Gates hostage. With the camera still rolling and on live television, Budwell makes Gates wear a vest containing a bomb that will explode if Budwell lets go of his hand control unit. We learn that Budwell lost his life savings totalling $60,000 because of the IBiS glitch. He blames Gates for strongly recommending the stock, and he will detonate the bomb unless he gets an explanation.

This movie had a lot going for it – at first. I thought it was going to be an assault on the financial divide. Which is where it started. But as the drama played out, it became more about a singular CEO who gamed an online trading program to make off with $800 million to destabilize an African country’s platinum mines. A shrewd investment – as it could triple its value overnight. However, it’s both illegal and immoral. The investor’s response was that it was money and money has its own morality. So, rather than deal with the real challenges of the market (as did The Big Short), the director and writers played it safe with one fictional arbitrage investor. It turns out to be quite dull.

Greg, I think this movie does indeed feed off the anger Americans feel toward Wall Street and big businesses that place greed ahead of humanity. Our hero is everyman Kyle Budwell, who is mad as hell and just won’t take it anymore. In an unlikely pairing, he and Lee Gates become buddy heroes who start out as enemies but evolve into a single team of truth-seekers who are driven to expose the misdeeds of IBiS’s CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West). Money Monsters held my attention, despite its predictability, as we know IBiS is the villain and that Budwell must die to make his point. I enjoyed Clooney’s performance and reveled in the tense take-down of the corrupt, villainous fat-cat Camby.

The heroes here are Gates and Budwell with Fenn constantly in Gates’ ear. She reminded me of Jiminy Cricket – giving advice and encouragement from behind the glass windows. As you point out, Gates and Budwell become a sort of buddy hero team – starting apart and gradually growing closer as the film progresses. In the end Budwell reveals to Gats that the suicide vest he is wearing is packed with clay, not explosives. While it wasn’t necessary, Budwell commits “suicide by cop” when he appears to take his thumb off the dead-man’s trigger and the entire police force shoot him down.

Fenn is indeed Gates’ mentor, leaving Budwell without one — unless you count his histrionic girlfriend Molly (Emily Meade) who is briefly videoed into the studio to help but instead douses the situation with gasoline with her vitriolic excoriation of Budwell. Molly could thus be considered a dark mentor. Another possible dark mentor is our arch villain Camby, who betrays his protégé Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe).

Money Monster is the movie that could have been. While it has a good cast and an able director in Jodie Foster, the climax left me wanting. The ending with a martyred Budwell was telescoped from the beginning and was wholly unnecessary. While I was entertained for a couple hours, I didn’t leave the theater feeling smarter or more introspective about the world of high finance. I give Money Monster 3 out of 5 Reels.

The hero story was good enough with Gates and Budwell portraying a classic buddy hero pattern – starting out at odds and ending up on the same page. Clooney’s Gates rang true to the several money investment types I’ve seen on cable news channels. And Budwell came across as an everyman who had been pulled to his wit’s end. I give them 3 Heroes.

The mentors were pretty weak in this story. Fenn is constantly in Gates’ ear but offers more direction than actual advice. Scott, you pointed out the dark mentors which I agree – but they got scant screen time. They only get 2 Mentors from me.

 Movie: reel-3 Mentor: mentor2  Hero: h-logo-3

I’d say you’re pretty much on the money with your assessments, Gregger. I enjoyed Money Monster for what it is, namely, a tense drama exposing the unbridled greed of our times and its calamitous effects on common everyday people. The performances by George Clooney and Julia Roberts are well worth watching, and we get a satisfying ending that signals hope and justice for our corrupt society. Like you, I award this film 3 Reels out of 5.

Our two heroes start out as unlikely buddies but they evolve into people who sense that the true enemies are not each other but Walt Camby, the evil CEO of IBiS. The hero story is satisfying because our two buddies undergo a transformation — Gates starts out an arrogant ass and becomes humbled by dire circumstances. Budwell’s extreme actions make Gates’ transformation possible, and Gates works with Fenn to help educate Budwell about the true villain at work in the story. It’s a pretty decent hero’s journey worthy of 3 Heroes out of 5.

The mentorship is better than you give it credit for, Greg. Fenn is indispensable as a smooth, wise, voice of reason for Gates. She gets him through this crisis. Budwell, meanwhile, receives some mentoring directly from Gates and indirectly from Fenn. He also operates by an internal code of justice. We also have a bit of dark mentoring from Budwell’s girlfriend and from Camby directed toward Lester. So overall, I have no qualms awarding 3 out of 5 Mentors here, too.

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