Tuesday 31 May 2016

Money Monster

Wacking The Bankers

Money Monster
2016 USA Directed by Jodie Foster
UK cinema release print.

Okay.... so Money Monster has got to be one of the worst movie titles to come along in quite some time. Absolutely not something which would tempt me to go and see it at the cinema and, when you put the names George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the mix, much as I do like both those actors, it sends out big ‘stay away’ signals to me because, as great as these two are (and they are great at what they do), they tend to not very often make the kind of movies I would go and see. At least, not when they are working on a project together.

If you further add in the ingredient “Directed by Jodie Foster”, then you have another negative point stacked up against it. Sure, I also appreciate the acting skills of Jodie Foster (ever since seeing her in Bugsy Malone and Taxi Driver) but seeing large scale actors take on directing duties always sounds, to me, like they’re fiddling around with an experimental vanity project. Yeah, I know. It’s a terrible prejudice to have, for sure, but that’s my thinking.

However, despite all these potential hurdles, what got me into the cinema to see this thing was one of the few things that studios often tend to rely on but which rarely, in my experience, seem to actually work, one way or another. I’m talking about the trailer here. It was a good trailer which seemed somewhat hard hitting and which harkened back to a 1970s style of movie making, as seen in films like Network, it seemed to me. It was intriguing and it felt like it was going to say something really sly about the way people are manipulated by big corporations and, in a way, I guess it does.

Therefore, I was more than delighted when I saw this picture because, although it doesn’t quite have that 1970s vibe I was hoping for, and might not be quite as hard hitting or satirical as I’d have liked, it is a solid piece of cinema and all the cast and crew, in front of and behind the cameras, deserve a big round of applause for this one. It takes a subject which could, quite easily, be over in three quarters of an hour and pushes the boundaries to places where it doesn’t take you in the trailer, and which leaves a surprising amount of the last half an hour out of the equation.

The film tells the story of a day in the life of Clooney’s character Lee Gates, a financial personality for a TV channel, and the last show with his producer Patty, played by Roberts. In the middle of a live show where they are investigating the crash of a big company and the ‘shareholder’s fallout’, losing 800 million dollars, a victim of said crash, Kyle (played by Jack O’ Connell), takes Clooney hostage and makes him wear a suicide vest until he can get some answers. As the film goes down a semi-predictable route, the actual details that begin to emerge as Roberts and her crew are forced to investigate what really happened, as opposed to the cover story of a computer glitch, becomes what the real story is about.

Now although, as I said, I tend to avoid Clooney and Roberts due to some of the parts they take on, you can’t argue that these two are absolute professionals and they do their job to perfection here. As does Jack O’Connell playing the reluctant but hot headed antagonist/victim in the picture. The performances of all three, plus their brilliant co-stars, turns a somewhat clich├ęd but ultimately sound story into riveting drama and, of course, Foster makes a really good job of things too...

The director perfectly captures the ensuing chaos of a live show about to go on the air, not to mention the shenanigans that happen once the ‘terrorist’ of the piece enters the story. It’s a polished, fluid kind of rawness she captures, to be sure, but it is well covered with a lot happening on screen a lot of the time. The fact that she makes it so easy for the audience to follow everything that goes on speaks volumes about her skill at helming such a production. There is an impending sense of doom that starts to take a hold of you as the film progresses and, while it might be fair to say that there’s a certain amount of inevitability in terms of the final ten minutes of the movie, the fact that Foster can keep such a tight reign on the suspense while still managing to make you laugh at certain scenes within the ‘heat of the moment’, proves she knows her stuff, as far as I’m concerned.

Another aspect of it is that the cops in the story, who are supposed to be the good guys, almost come acrosss as the bad guys in the film. They are generally portrayed as inept a lot of the time, making the wrong calls and, when it counts, adding as much tension to the final outcome as possible. The police do not come out looking good in this one and one wonders if this is one of the agendas of the writers or director here. Either way, as the tension mounts and the story takes the viewer out of the studio environment which it stays in for the majority of the film (with occasional cuts to other characters involved in the investigation outside), the one group of people you really wish weren’t on the scene is the local police force. In some ways they become as much of an antagonist in direct contrast to Jack O’ Connell’s character becoming less of one as the running time moves inexorably towards its final solution. .. which I’m certainly not going to spoil for you here.

There have been a few of these kind of movies over the years, when powerful organisations are investigated due to the aggressive intervention of ‘the little guy’ but, at the moment, it’s in a minority amidst all the other kinds of movies playing at cinemas at the moment. It’s a welcome alternative to, and distraction from, the various super heroes and orcs showing across the country at the moment and this alone makes it worth your time to buy a ticket. Not the best film you’ll see at the cinema this year but certainly a pretty interesting one and if you like the actors involved in this one and are interested in seeing something which is, at the moment, a little bit different to anything else you are going to see out there, then Money Monster is definitely one to go take a look at. The pacing is pretty fast and the dramatic situations unfold at a rate of knots without killing the credibility of the situation. Not a bad evening out, if you get a chance.

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