When the most memorable moments of a suspense thriller are the minor characters, you know you have a problem. It was the smaller roles of Lenny Venito (St. Vincent, The Neighbors), and the rip-roaring scene of Emily Meade (Gimme Shelter) as Jack O’Connell’s (300: Rise of an Empire) pregnant girlfriend that really stood out.
Venito’s character, though nothing new for him, steals the movie. He has depth, even though we never learn anything about him. It is all in small reactions and decisions and how he performs his actions under pressure. And Meade, well, let’s just say she’s a riot and so true to life that any outer borough dweller would recognize her in an instant.
That isn’t to say that Money Monster isn’t tense and well-acted, but you would expect a better film overall, or at least a better overall effect. Unfortunately the subject matter is just a little too late and little too apologetic for some of the characters, none of whom you really get to know as people.
Foster (The Beaver) directed the piece with a great sense of timing, but the script was missing a human connection. The strongest relationship is the one we watch getting built between George Clooney (Hail, Caesar!) and Jack O’Connell. Clooney’s connection to Julia Roberts (August: Osage County) is implied, but it is mostly overshadowed by both of them falling into work mode to produce their show. Unlike, Network, we never really get people or even ideas to fight for or against. In large part I think it is because the root of the problem that O’Connell and Clooney uncover is a pedestrian, if clever, straight-forward theft. It has nothing to do with the more standard and insidious reasons the market is rigged against “the small guy.”
The other two main characters, given life by Caitriona Balfe (Outlander) and Dominic West (Genius), have a curious side story of loyalty and betrayal. Balfe, in particular, has an interesting line to tread. Most of the rest of the cast, such as Giancarlo Esposito (Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials), came across as more cookie-cutter and, at times, more foolish than anything else.
While Money Monster isn’t what it could have been, neither is it a complete loss. The ride is well crafted and the acting good. Is it high on my list? No, but I’ve invested more time on much worse and I didn’t feel cheated when it was done; I just had higher expectations given the cast and Foster so my disappointment is a bit more raw.