As generic and impersonal as a new credit-card offer, Jodie Foster's Money Monster is the latest big-studio production to try to cash in on populist outrage over Wall Street abuses and New Gilded Age inequality. There's a lot of excitable talk about algorithms (or "algos"), the overuse of the term perhaps fitting for a film that seems to have been constructed not by humans but by binary code.
In its real-time hostage-taking scenario and sendup of infotainment, Money Monster weakly nods to the Sidney Lumet mid-'70s touchstones Dog Day Afternoon and Network. Disgruntled blue-collar worker Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) sneaks onto the set of a TV finance program (the title of which is the same as Foster's movie) hosted by Lee Gates (George Clooney), a Jim Cramer–like clown. There Kyle points a gun at the small-screen huckster, demanding that he strap on an explosive vest. Kyle, a working-class construct whose prole bona fides are signaled by UK native O'Connell's aggressive outer-borough accent, has become unglued after following a tip from Gates' show to buy stock in Ibis Clear Capital -- a company whose mysterious "loss" of $800 million includes Kyle's $60,000 life savings. The CEO of Ibis is airborne and not picking up his phone; back in the studio, Lee's producer, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), keeps busy on her headset, calming the financial guru via a hidden earpiece when not barking with ersatz indignation at Ibis' communications officer.
Punch lines arrive two beats too late; the script, written by Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf, is larded with redundancies; and Clooney and Roberts generate zero excitement.