A thriller about a gunman holding a live news broadcast to ransom, Money Monster is an intense, tension soaked thriller that starts strongly and despite a weaker second half, does a good job of sustaining its momentum as a decent thriller. It feels like it takes inspiration from films like Phonebooth with its tense situation and gunman but it has enough differences to set it apart as a good, albeit not great, thriller.
The story follows arrogant financial advisor Lee Gates (George Clooney) who’s show Money Monster (a strange mix of comedy and financial advising) is a massive hit on TV. After a fluctuation in the financial world catches his misguided advising off guard, an irate investor appears live on air and holds the show at gunpoint. Liaising with the lead producer of the show Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), Lee must try and negotiate their way out of a difficult situation all the while a loose cannon gunman demands answers and the world watches on from the rolling camera. Whilst becoming more predictable as the film draws nearer its climax, there’s a loosely thread cover-up story woven here too that doesn’t always hit but the tension does manage to sustain all the way to the ending.
Clooney delivers enough charisma to be endearing in this role even if he never truly shines through his frightened, tense facial expressions. The real stand out here though is the gunman (Jack O’Connell), who’s unpredictable performance steals the show and makes the situation incredibly tense. Whether it be violent outbursts or some of the more mellow, unpredictable exchanges, he manages to portray a desperate man perfectly and it really shows here.
Money Monster is one of those films that, while competently made and ticking all the boxes in the thriller genre, never quite elevates itself above being simply okay. It’s not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination and the hostage situation is shot well with some good use of pacing throughout, made all the more tense by it being shot live on TV in the film. There just isn’t really anything that sets it apart from other films that have done the same thing, and at times done it better. The latter half does try to bring some originality and although moving the plot forward, opens it up to lose some of the tension initially built in the opening 45 minutes or so in the film.
Overall, Money Monster is a good thriller that nails the tense nature of a hostage situation but never quite elevates it up to being a great film. O’Connell is one of the stand outs here with a solid performance and easily outshadows everyone else on screen. The film ends well too and despite the obviousness of how the plot will end, its still a fun ride from start to finish. It’s not the best thriller you’re likely to see, but is a decent watch nonetheless.