**1/2 stars (out of four)
In director Jodie Foster’s new film Money Monster, George Clooney plays the host of a cheesy cable show offering investment advice. After a fund he’d touted on TV crashes, a disgruntled investor (Jack O’Connell) shows up with a gun and a bomb. Clooney’s director (Julia Roberts) tries to help keep things under control while the police and media surround the building.
The first thirty minutes feel clunky and hamfisted. Attempts at broad humor fail and the movie seems interested in making an obvious point in an obvious matter. But, the film finds its stride and embraces a darker brand of humor. The movie’s two best scenes - one where Clooney begs viewers to help save his life and another where a video conference call between O’Connell and his girlfriend goes disastrously wrong - score some grim laughs.
But mostly, Money Monster is content to be a thriller with a message. It stays watchable in its final two-thirds and Foster keeps the running time a fleet 98 minutes. But it feels like this would’ve been a better movie if it’d fully embraced its dark comic side.