Capitalist skullduggery has inspired some artful movies recently, from the hyped-up comedy of 'The Wolf of Wall Street' to the sombre drama of 'Margin Call'. Now Jodie Foster directs 'Money Monster', an uncomplicated, shamelessly populist hostage thriller about a little guy raging against the corporate machine, as blue-collar America looks on and punches the air in support.
It's 'Dog Day Afternoon' for dough-brains as disgruntled truck driver Kyle (Jack O'Connell, shouty and twitchy) storms a TV news studio where charismatic, maverick stocks reporter Lee (George Clooney, who can do this stuff in his sleep) is doing his wacky thing with the help of long-suffering producer Patty (Julia Roberts, solid and dependable). Kyle's gripe? Lee recently banged the drum on TV for a financial stock that crashed, so losing Kyle sixty thousand dollars. Yet it's soon clear that the real bad guy is on a private jet somewhere: Walt Camby (Dominic West), a hilariously cartoon version of a fat-cat CEO.
There's no escaping it: 'Money Monster' is a basic, silly movie. But it has on its side a top-notch cast and an entire absence of self-seriousness. If you thought 'The Big Short' was too complicated, you might welcome Foster's no-nonsense preference for showcasing ticking bombs over financial graphs. It's hermetically, hilariously American through and through, from its throaty defence of the little guy's access to a fair global stock market as an essential human right to its laughable brief scenes set in other countries including Korea, Iceland and South Africa.
But swipes against our rolling news culture and even financial corruption feel half-hearted. Most of the film's energy is spent making this a swift, brisk kidnapping romp that always feels just one beat away from the cast smiling at the camera, winking and shrugging their shoulders.