Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) was a working class guy from Queens who never had enough money to play the stock market until his mother died and left him $60,000. The truck driver put every penny of that inheritance into IBIS Clear Capital, a stock that was promoted by TV money guru Lee Gates (George Clooney) as being “safer than a savings account.”
Gates is the glib host of Money Monster, an investment advice show on the mythical FNN Network. The clownish character played by George Clooney was obviously inspired by Jim Cramer of CNBC’s Mad Money.
Unfortunately, in less than a month, Gates’s “stock pick of the millennium” goes bust, leaving Kyle frustrated, broke, and at the end of his rope. So, he crashes the set of Money Monster while it is being broadcast, and forces Lee Gates to put on a vest filled with explosives, while Kyle holds the detonator switch for the vest in one hand, and a gun in the other. Producer and director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) has no choice but to give in to Kyle’s demand that the show continue to broadcast.
With his finger on the trigger, he demands answers from Lee about why the stock collapsed while ranting and raving about how “The system is rigged!” Kyle is sure that Gates knew that the stock was going to tank, and demands that all of the IBIS shareholders be reimbursed for their $800 million in losses.
Meanwhile, the police descend on the set, led by Captain Powell (Giancarlo Esposito) who summons a hostage negotiator. During the ensuing standoff, the truth about IBIS emerges in front of millions of viewers, and the company’s CEO, Walt Camby (Dominic West) is shown to be involved in a shady manipulation of his company’s stock.
So unfolds Money Monster, a thriller directed by Jodie Foster. The movie is also a modern morality play that levels some serious accusations at Wall Street. Credit goes to George Clooney and Julia Roberts for committing fully to a production that rests on a farfetched premise that could’ve very easily proved unconvincing in less talented hands.
Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity, brief violence, and some sexuality. Running time: 98 minutes. Studio: Smokehouse Pictures. Distributor: Sony Pictures.