Money Monster is a slick and shiny pile of horseshit, like if an appaloosa ate a tub of carnauba wax. This movie is Hollywood fuckery of the worst kind. That is, the kind where a bunch of rich assholes decide they’re going to speak up for us little people, make a movie about what ails us, but actually just end up wrapping their blockbuster formula around a hot topic. They don’t address it, don’t shed light. They just exploit it as an excuse to make another shitty movie.
We didn’t ask them to talk about Wall Street. We don’t need them to. It’s just that those God damn nitwits feel the need every few months to reach out of their gold-plated bubble and give the common man a pat on the head. That pat, patronizing and worthless, is Money Monster.
This movie wishes it were a biting satire, a Network for 2016, a dramatic thriller that entertains even while indicting Wall Street for running a hot poker up the ass of the 99%. There’s only about two-thousand problems with that. The first and biggest of which is that this movie ain’t entertaining. And even if it were, it would be neither satire nor commentary. It’s just a brisk-paced bore, a bunch of actorly actors riding a plot that left the station ahead of them, and without any personality on board.
George Clooney plays a loud-mouth asshole TV stock shill named Lee Gates. I guess this is meant to be a caricature of loud-mouth asshole Jim Cramer, already a caricature of a human being. The thing is, Gates is too broad a cartoon, too outlandish to have any teeth. He has dancers and big buttons to press. He yells at people to grow balls and talks rapid-fire out his ass, the sort of banter that sounds witty inside the head of a dull-witted screenwriter but sounds, in a theater, like the guy at the end of the bar everyone avoids because he never shuts up.
During Gates’ show, a young man named Kyle (Jack O’Connell) slips onto the stage and takes the TV host hostage. He threatens first to break the record for most belabored outer-burrough accent, and second to kill Gates if the host can’t explain why his guaranteed stock pick took a dump and took the guy’s life savings with it.
Kyle is supposed to represent you and me, the little people, the average joe getting screwed by Wall Street. As the movie progresses, we’re supposed to side with this dude who strapped a bomb vest onto a TV host live on the air. As Hollywood sees it from their mansions on hilltops, a Yonkers donk represents all the suppressed rage in the flyover states.
Except, Kyle is a fucking moron. He asks early on, “How stupid do you think I am?” Well, given that he invested his entire savings on a single stock tip from a guy who dresses in sequins and top hats, I’d say pretty fucking dumb. Also, the rage of the average person isn’t something that erupted like a zit. The real rage is one that has festered like a boil on the Harelip’s tit for years, oozy and raw, more about the simmering anger felt in chronic futility than by one instance of getting fucked.
Julia Roberts plays Patty, the TV show’s director, and pound-for-pound as unclever-yet-chatty as everyone else in Money Monster. I mean, some really dumb assholes must have been really impressed with all the faux clever shit some other asshole wrote for this movie to have gotten made.
From the control booth, Patty tries to keep Gates from saying something that will get him blowed up real good, calms Kyle and tries to keep making watchable television. She has nothing to do in this movie but act as traffic cop, telling everyone when to start and stop their big, important speeches. With Patty pulling the strings, the hostage and hostage-taker quickly and easily discover that the stock that Kyle invested in collapsed because of fraud and corruption, not a “computer glitch” as the company claimed.
The character of Lee Gates perfectly embodies the way Hollywood feels about “Big Issues” like Wall Street’s greed. When faced with the plight of a poor schmuck he changes stripes and takes up the new cause. He may think he sincerely gives a rat’s ass, but like Hollywood, he’s just a fucking dilettante, and tomorrow there will be some new shiny object for him to chase.
The reason why Kyle lost his savings is Money Monster’s second biggest problem. First, the fraud angle veers into a weirdly specific and convoluted story, but not a general indictment of the myriad institutionalized ways Wall Street ass rapes the little man (fees, clandestine funding of payday loan services, reverse mortgages, stock churning, opaque retirement accounts, ATM fees, banking fees, debit card fees, on and on). It's so abstract and weird that it’s boring, but worse, not satire. It turns the movie into a crappy thriller about a single, specific event. Some shit about a strike in a South African platinum mine, someone not taking his private jet to Geneva like he said, and a PR person finally getting a spine. It’s just dull, hollywood formula spun out like a kid telling a lie: they think the more weird detail they add the more real it will sound.
Second, the fraud is discovered way too fucking easily by the dipshits at the helm in Money Monster. As though the people who lost a shitload more than Kyle didn’t try to find out what happened. You have to believe that everyone else just said, “Oh, computer glitch. Oh, well,” shrugged their shoulders and moved on. But if Wall Street assholes are greedy fucks, they are always that way and demand to know what happened when they lost. Rich people often get rich because they are bitches about every last penny.
Money Monster purports to happen in real time. For a while, anyway. Then it gets fucking lazy and cloudy. Time stretches and compresses in ways even Stephen Hawking couldn’t explain. At one point, a character sets a ten-minute deadline or another character dies. Ten minutes pass and either everyone has forgotten, or they’re on a different timeline in a different dimension.
Money Monster is superficial. The whole dam thing feels like the cover of a People Magazine in terms of its depth and amount of gloss. Not for one second did I think I was doing anything but watching Clooney and Roberts “acting.” Not once did I ever feel like anything real was at risk in the story. This is just Hollywood being Hollywood, and telling us, “We’re on your side here, now give us twelve bucks.”
Fuck them. Fuck their good intentions at our expense. I'd rather be entertained than know Clooney and Roberts are mad too. And fuck them for thinking for ten seconds they’re telling our story when every God damn last one of them handed his paycheck over to Wall Street money managers who give their high-end clients access to the information and investment options that the average moviegoer can’t afford. One Finger for the dull, shiny pile of shit called Money Monster.
An aside to Julia Roberts: Julia, you and I used to have a thing. I was in love with you and you didn't know I existed. Well, no more. From now on, I am not going to love you and you, probably, will still not know I exist. But it will be a much lonelier not knowing.