In the taut and tense thriller Money Monster, Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a bombastic TV personality whose popular financial network show has made him the money wiz of Wall Street. But after he hawks a high tech stock that mysteriously crashes, an irate investor (Jack O'Connell) takes Gates, his crew, and his ace producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) hostage live on air. Unfolding in real time, Gates and Fenn must find a way to keep themselves alive while simultaneously uncovering the truth behind a tangle of big money lies.
We live in a political age today. Turn on the TV and politics are everywhere, and the crash of Wall Street and the corruption that led to its downfall is still a hot topic. The Film Industry has been attempting to capitalize on the politics of Wall Street for years with films like ‘The Big Short,’ ‘Cosmopolis,’ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ Here, director Jodie Foster has attempted something more in line with older political thrillers, in the vein of ‘12 Angry Men’ or ‘Dog Day Afternoon.’ But can this film say anything that hasn't already been said in a way that flows naturally with the story they want to tell?
George Clooney stars as Lee Gates, a financial analyst who hosts a show called Money Monster, which resembles ‘Mad Money.’ The stock of a multibillion dollar company named IBIS, led by Walt Camby (Dominic West) has plummeted $800 million, and Lee has an exclusive interview. But Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) has other plans for Lee. He has lost $60,000 by investing solely in the company which Lee had recommended, and he wants revenge. Kyle disguises himself as a delivery man and hijacks the show, eventually strapping a bomb to Lee’s chest. Everyone in the world is watching these events unfold and it quickly becomes worldwide news.
Clooney and O’Connell are equally great here. Clooney has been phoning it in for years, ever since ‘The Descendants’ in 2011, but here he has energy and life. He's dancing around the set, and is electric playing the scummy womanizer who is good at what he does because he has the power of persuasion, and influence; that's it. Both actors are at the top of their game here; O’Connell is a good foil for Clooney’s sleazy million-dollar façade. Kyle is a regular Joe getting paid $14 an hour in the most expensive city in the US. He put all he had into the stock because Lee said “it is a safer bet than your bank account.” Kyle is now desperate and has become unhinged. There is a tension between these two characters that is a huge asset to the believability of this situation.
Julia Roberts is Lee’s director and personal assistant, Patty Fenn. Patty basically runs Lee’s life, and his show’s control room, advising him through earpiece. When the crap hits the fan, she is the one controlling the situation through that earpiece. If Clooney hasn't been on his game in years, I can't even remember the last time I felt immersed in a performance by Roberts, but she's excellent here, and this is by far one of the best performance of her whole career. Patty is the one staying calm, making sure Lee doesn't get blown to bits, and is ten times more in control than Lee and Kyle combined. While the situation is escalating on screen, Patty is behind the scenes investigating what exactly happened to IBIS’s stocks and trying to get Kyle the answers he wants in order to defuse this violent situation. Roberts pulls this off perfectly here, and I hope to see her in more roles like this in the future.
Without spoiling what happens, I will say this movie is at its best when it's in the studio with Clooney, Roberts, and O’Connell. Everything there moves at a rapid pace and is a tense political thriller. I was invested in the interplay between these the actors, wh are all playing at the top of their game. A;though I enjoyed this film because of the great performances, I didn't quite love it the way I had hoped.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony brings ‘Money Monster’ to Blu-ray in a pretty standard way with the same slip cover that slips off to reveal a hard cover case. Inside the case is the traditional BD-50 Blu-ray to the right, and an Ultraviolet download code advertisement to the left. Once I pressed play I was presented with a series of skippable ads and theatrical trailers, followed by yet another still frame main menu that lets you navigate from there.
Sony Pictures looks to cash in on ‘Money Monster’ with a 1080P/MPEG-4 AVC encode that truly impresses. Framed at a 2.39:1 aspect ratio, from the first frame of this film where we get the overhead panning shot of Clooney, I knew I was in good hands. The detail work in this film is fantastic, and being able to see all the individual hairs on Clooney’s head and the wrinkles on his face is a great way to start this film. I was blown away by how sharp the detail work is and whether it is the details of the Money Monster set, or the fur lining on Kyle coat, both the detail work and the overall sharpness of this transfer are strong as hell.
Depth of field and dimensionality are excellent as well. Most of this movie takes place on the Money Monster set, and between the tons of LCD screens, cameras, Lee’s desk, and the backdrop, you get a depth of field that you don’t see every day. The only problem is the control room for the set, where Roberts spends the majority of her time: it's a dimly lit room. From time to time the lack of lighting tends to take away from that excellent depth of field, and sharpness. As it stands, this is a model transfer for any film that doesn't have a hyper stylized look to it.
‘Money Monster’ puts stock in a Blu-ray DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that isn't as good as its Video Quality counterpart, but is a strong enough entry for a heavily talky thriller. This does tend to be a front heavy track, but every time the surrounds do kick in, it is effective. At every gong from Lee’s buzzer and when the score of the film kicks in, the surrounds are expansive, and add life to what could have been a dull affair. As the film expands and goes out into the New York streets, the surrounds come to life with the everyday street commotion that only a New Yorker would love.
The LFE track is subtle, but effective. When a gun goes off, it rattles your sound field with force. Overall levels are generous, and dialogue is clear and audible, despite Kyle’s heavy New Yorkah accent. Even though I've been known to like more aggressive tracks, I can admire a more subdued track like this that kicks into high gear when it needs to. This is a great track that fits the tone of this film well, and does this film justice.
Deleted Scenes (2:23 HD) – 3 deleted scenes that add little to nothing to the film.
George Clooney: The Money Man (5:27 HD) – Want to know Clooney's inspiration behind the character of Lee Gates? This is a feature that goes into his inspirations and what his coworkers thought of him in his
Inside the Pressure Cooker (9:55 HD) - Wondering what happened behind the scenes to make this film possible? This is an in depth look at the ideas behind this film, and the politics involved that made the movie what it is.
Analysis of a Scene: The Showdown (7:09 HD) – A look at the final showdown at the end of the movie, not so much from a technical aspect, but instead it deals with the motivations of the characters at this point in the film.
Dan the Automator (feat. Del the Funky Homosapian) “What the World Go Round (Money!) Music Video (3:05 HD)
‘Money Monster’ is a good, tense thriller, as long as it’s taking place on the Money Monster set. The three main performances are electric, and the situation actually made me sympathize with the character of Kyle Butler. Unfortunately, as time goes on, there is a whole other plot taking place, and it ranges from just plain distracting to laughably ridiculous. But for me, the performances shine through all the contrivances, and with a hugely satisfying transfer, this is a Blu-ray I would feel comfortable recommending.