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October 2016

Money Monster

cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O'Connell, Dominic West, and Giancarlo Esposito

director: Jodie Foster

98 minutes (15) 2016
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Sony blu-ray region B
[released 3 October]

RATING: 7/10
review by Christopher Geary

Money Monster

New York TV show host and prancing stock-tipster Lee Gates is about ready to settle on a retirement plan when his, perhaps final, programme is hi-jacked on-air by lone gunman Kyle (Jack O'Connell). Kyle puts a Semtex waistcoat on Gates and the bomb jacket is linked to a dead-man's switch that's wielded over the studio crew as a terror threat. This hostage drama unfolds in very nearly real-time on an international stage of global channels, with cynical views and satirical judgements of showbiz and corporations.

Kyle's violent complaint centres on $800 million lost by a supposed 'computer glitch', while the company's owner is 'in the wind' - quite literally, as the location of his private jet is unknown to authorities. While the NYPD fail to negotiate with the potentially suicidal maniac, hassles and haggles carry a livewire comedy charge as a conspiracy is slowly decoded. Who wrote the reportedly faulty algorithm? What's a human life worth? Lies and propaganda are soon generated, and a media circus is on the firing line with the greater perspectives of a sociopolitical commentary on compromised investigative journalism, and so - as Gates' quip foreshadows - "we'll figure it out together."

Jodie Foster's most ambitious and accomplished movie to date wants to be something like Network (1976) meets The China Syndrome (1979), with at least one 'episode' of hysterical soap opera borrowed from Dog Day Afternoon (1975). Money Monster is a good attempt at unmasking the sickening power and influence of television agendas and the all-to human flaws of 'safeguards' on digital technology that runs the world's financial systems. While looking back fondly to all those American folk-hero pictures of the 1970s (a decade when Foster herself won teenage stardom in Taxi Driver), this thriller about corruption and inequality is timely and powerful when it really needs to be, and yet skilfully avoids pretension by humorous undercurrents sometimes bought to the foreground as farcical twists.

If you're a fan of TV shows like Mr Robot, and remember such fine hostage dramas as Kings And Desperate Men (1981), this might be a welcome revisit to such left-wing manifestos. The complexity of class-warfare themes in Money Monster is increasingly relevant today, especially for its background story of grotesquely botched government schemes, including corporate welfare and failed austerity. Foster's witty development of the relationship between Gates (George Clooney), and his TV producer Patty (Julia Roberts), ensures this movie's tense depiction of grace-under-pressure during the live broadcast remains central to a plot about how money became devalued to a numbers-game. It might have been dull and bleak, but the successful combination of Oscar-winning talent and careful explorations of a potentially baffling storyline makes this a superior entertainment.



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