Money Monster (2016)

(Video on-Demand, September 2016) Given how I’ve been screeching about the disappearance of medium-budget Hollywood thrillers, I should at least take a moment to acknowledge the very existence of Money Monster, which not only provides two A-list actors with an original script, but also returns to the kind of contemporary issues-driven film that has also disappeared from the timid studio slates. Money Monster is about corporate malfeasance in financial matters, and the uneasy relationship between industry and the media. It’s also a bit of a cry against the exploitation of workers, but that’s easy to forget as the film moves into a thriller narrative in which a downtrodden worker takes a celebrity financial commentator hostage while live on the air. Cue the efforts of the show’s producer to try the resolve the situation without bloodshed … and maybe piece together the piece of a financial scandal along the way. Directed with some energy by Jodie Foster, Money Monster also turns out to be a mid-list showcase for the kind of role that George Clooney (as a borderline-sleazy TV pundit who learns better) and Julia Roberts (as a competent show producer) can do purely on the strength of their persona. As the complications pile up, Money Monster remains engrossing throughout—although there’s a temporary lull when the action moves outside the studio. Perhaps more interestingly, it ends up satisfying a scratch for almost exactly that kind of perfectly serviceable thriller, dabbling in social issues while showcasing good actors. (If you were wondering about how Money Monster existed, bet something on Foster’s ability to attract A-listers.) It may not be a film that will remain at the top of the year-best rankings, but it’s good, it’s entertaining, it’s got morals at the right place and it’s the kind of film I’d like to see more often.

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