Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Money Monster Review

Coming off the heels of Captain America: Civil War is a small thriller that smartly placed itself in between the summer blockbusters in order to provide a bit of counter-programming. I wasn't expecting this to do much. I was thinking it would do around $7 million or so on opening weekend on it's way to a final total of like $25 million. Turns out it surprised a bit by pulling of a $14.8 million opening, which means it should have enough legs to pull in close to $50 million, which is not bad for a movie with an estimated production budget of $27 million. The movie itself? A billed cast of George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Jack O'Connell will definitely turn your head, especially when you notice the two-time Oscar winning actress Jodie Foster is on board to direct. Granted, Jodie doesn't have a ton of experience behind the camera, but she's been around the scene enough to throw together a decent film, right? That's the theory, anyways. Then you look at the premise. Oh. Hostage movie. Dude has a gun and a bomb and he's threatening to kill people if he doesn't get what he wants. We've seen this a hundred times. It still could be a decent time, though. But it's not. I don't know what went wrong here, but this movie is a laughable mess.

Let's stop for a second here and remind you that a good crime drama is something that I enjoy. In fact, Criminal Minds is one of my favorite shows. I've seen all 250 plus episodes. Thus you can see that if you do a decent enough job with your crime drama, I can be easily pleased. I specifically bring up Criminal Minds because when I saw this trailer, I thought it looked like an average Criminal Minds episode, stretched out into a 100-minute movie. And that's what made me nervous. Like I said, I can be easily pleased when it comes to these, but when you attempt to stretch out what should be a 40-minute TV episode into a 100-minute movie, that's a bit troublesome. First off, you have to justify your existence as to why I should pay money to see your movie when I can just turn on the TV and watch an episode of Criminal Minds or another one of the ten thousand crime dramas we have on TV nowadays for free. Second, you have to do a good job at filling space. This is a story arc that fits perfectly into 40 minutes. 100 minutes, though? That's a two-and-a-half-episode story arc! This is where Money Monster fails. No, it doesn't justify it's existence. And no, it does a horrible job with all that extra space.

As far as the story goes, George Clooney plays the host of a talk show that's centered around money and the stock market. One day as they are just getting into their show, our psychopath played by Jack O'Connell walks on set with a gun and forces George Clooney to put on a vest with a bomb strapped to it, threatening to blow everyone up if he doesn't get answers. Answers to what? Well, George Clooney promised on the show a few weeks prior that investing stock in a certain company was the safest thing to do, so Jack O'Connell literally invested all he had. Yeah that company crashed and he lost all his money. So he walked on set with a gun and a bomb. First off, how did he manage to get on set so easily? That was like the most insecure news building. Second, why? Central to these criminal investigation shows is a really good unsub. That's what Criminal Minds calls them, anyways. "UNknown SUBject." Our villain, if you will. If you paint me a picture of a guy with a really messed up backstory, has some serious psychological issues, or for some other reason would want to realistically go blow himself up or hold a whole news station hostage, then I'm sold. But I don't get that here. Nothing about Jack O'Connell's character screams crazy psychopath and we really don't get much of a backstory for him. The backstory that we do get later on makes the idea that he would walk into a news station with a gun and a bomb even more ridiculous.

That's our first problem here. We don't have a very believable or relatable unsub in this movie. Jack O'Connell is an up and coming actor that I really like and he does a really good job in this movie. But he's just given nothing to work with. you have a bad unsub, you have a bad episode. That's usually how it works. The second big problem is that there is a surprising lack of tension. For the first half of the movie, we are trapped in this studio with a crazy gunman, but never once did I feel George Clooney's life was in danger. A big part of that is that I just didn't take Jack O'Connell's character seriously. He was good at yelling and screaming, but bad at carrying out threats. The whole team could do whatever the heck they wanted and he wouldn't really do anything. A second part of that is that there wasn't a big sense of panic. Everyone on board handled the situation in the most perfect way possible as if this is a situation that happens nearly every week. No one was scared. Camera men acted as if nothing was wrong. George Clooney was talking to this dude as if he didn't have a bomb strapped to his body and a gun pointed at his head. Julia Roberts as his producer talked to him as if she had just gotten out of a class on how to deal with a psycho maniac. Is was too perfect and thus not believable. And the soundtrack wasn't that tense. That's usually the biggest trick to building tension, but I just didn't feel it.

Another huge problem is that the police force in the movie were the biggest group of idiots I've seen in a cop show or movie. Whoever wrote this script must have never watched a single cop show in their lives or had no experience with how police handle these situations. In addition to having a good unsub and a realistically unsettled group of commoners, the other thing that makes cop shows interesting is having a good police team. If this were Criminal Minds, we'd have Hotch, Reid, Morgan, Rossi, and company on the scene quickly and they would be the ones managing the situation. I could envision Hotch or Reid being the one to take over Julia Roberts' spot as producer and telling George Clooney in his earpiece what to do and what to say. They would try to talk to Jack O'Connell if they could to talk him out of this and at the right time they would know when to move in and control the situation without harming anyone. But these police dudes, oh my goodness they were dumb. I suppose I won't spoil their plan, but it was possibly the worst thought-out plan that a police force could come up with to stop a hostage situation. I'm serious. If they were to try that in real life, everyone in that building would end up dead.

I've just scratched the surface here. There is so much more to talk about here, but we've come to the point where I've covered all I really can cover in a spoiler-free review. And this is not the type of movie that warrants a spoiler review. I have read a lot of reviews that have said that this is a good movie when they are in the studio and a bad movie when they are out of the studio. I partially disagree with that. I think this is a bad movie when they are in the studio and a worse movie when they are out of it. But the general idea that this gets worse when they leave the studio is something that I agree with. Pretty much the whole final act of this movie and most of the second half in general is total crap. There were several moments in the second half of this movie where I was literally laughing out loud in my theater. And I don't think it was supposed to be funny. They just throw all realism and logic out the window and try to give us some sort of preachy political message that the stock market and business world is corrupt. Granted that could've worked with a tightened up script as several movies have successfully done that. The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street are two great examples. But Money Monster just fails. They had good ideas, but those ideas didn't translate.

Overall this is not an unwatchable movie by any means. The technical aspects of this movie are done quite well. Camera work and cinematography is excellent. And this has a fantastic cast who all do a great job acting. I mean, this is not the best I've seen George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Jack O'Connell, but they certainly don't act as if they are just here to pick up their paycheck. They are looking like they are having a good time and trying to make this work. They're just given nothing to work with. This movie ends up coming off as a below average episode of any given crime drama that's stretched over the course of two and half episodes. We have a poorly written villain without a believable backstory. We have no tension in the studio when he is holding everyone hostage. We have a dumb police force that makes horrible decisions. And we have the whole second half of the movie that goes in a ton of weird, unrealistic, laughable directions. The movie is currently sitting at 55 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and 6.8 on IMDb. I think those are very generous numbers. If you want a good crime drama, just go watch Criminal Minds, NCIS, or any other show like that. Don't bother giving Money Monster your time and money. It doesn't deserve it. I'm giving the movie a 5/10.

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