You Must Remember This

You Must Remember This

Sunday, 29 May 2016


Jodie Foster’s most recent directorial effort after 2011’s The Beaver, Money Monster seeks to combine the hostage dynamics of Dog Day Afternoon with the financial acumen of The Big Short, but lacks the portfolio to pull it off. 

George Clooney stars as Lee Gates, a smirking Wall Street whiz who makes a living giving out overblown stock tips on a bells-and-whistles cable show called Money Monster. His brash exhortations comes back to bite — or possibly shoot him — however, when an angry investor, Kyle (Jack O’Connell), turns up in the studio with a gun, a bomb, and a dead man’s switch, demanding answers. What really happened at IBIS Global Capital that wiped $800 million off the stock price? And where is the company’s smug CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West)? 

As IBIS’ conflicted PR officer, Diane Lester (Catriona Balfe), struggles with her conscience, Gates lends the inarticulate Kyle his voice; first unwillingly then, increasingly, as benefactor/accomplice. Meanwhile, up in the control booth, Gates’ deeply committed director, Patty (Julia Roberts), keeps the show running — even relaying the occasional shot choice to long-suffering cameraman Lenny (Lenny Venito) down on the floor.  

Money Monster’s most pressing dramatic issue is its lack of urgency. Kyle is more upset than unstable; even after a vicious bollocking from his pregnant GF, there’s no sense he might doing anything truly desperate. Meanwhile, he gaggle of cops out in the street, as played by beloved character actors — Giancarlo Esposito (Gus from Breaking Bad), Chris Bauer (the Sheriff from True Blood), and John Ventimigli (Tony’s chef mate from The Sopranos) — feel like such a side-show that they might as well be starring in a TV spin-off of Inside Man.

O’Connell rages, Clooney alternately cowers and crusades — and, of course, manages to be utterly charming while doing it — and Roberts holds it together, but the film itself is neither idea-driven or genre-focused enough to do very much more than exist.

By making the cause of Kyle’s plight fraud — the obvious dramatic choice — rather than say greed, stupidity, and lack of foresight on a grand scale, such as was arguably the actual cause of the recent recession, the film’s script takes the bite out of what could be excoriating Nightcrawler-like satire. Characters talk about quantitative analytics, about money as energy, about being intellectually in love with a stock, but this all feels like lip service in the context of a film that ends with a literal march on Wall Street (with Gates aiding and abetting).

Money Monster is daft, rabble-rousing liberalism targeted at everyone and anyone who might be pissed off with the state of the economy. With little sapient to say on the matter, though, the film is forced to conclude that things might sorta be okay if only the fat cats could be made to admit that the ruthless pursuit of money above all else is wrong. As messages go, it doesn't add up to much.

VERDICT: Huge dividends, dramatic or otherwise, are unlikely, but Money Monster might still be worth your time, if only as an eventual investment on VOD. 5 out of 10

Tuesday, 24 May 2016


The Nice Guys is your standard Shane Black neo-noir buddy comedy with a '70s retrofit but that's no bad thing. The film is a wild and seedy ride from the top of the derelict Hollywood sign, through — occasionally literally — the deluxe shag pads of Beverly Hills, and all the way down through the mean streets of L.A. The buddies in question are not mean per se, though they are respectively afraid and tarnished. 

Ryan Gosling plays shrill, ineffectual P.I. Holland March who drinks like a fish — if the fish in question were a just-about-functioning alcoholic — and whose most notable trait is a Looney Tunes-like ability to bounce back from a beating (or a fall or a self-inflicted severed artery after trying to punch in a window). Even his precocious daughter Holly is exasperated: "You're the world’s worst detective". He’s the opposite of your classic hard-bitten P.I. Bogart would have eaten him for lunch. Even Elliott Gould's stumblebum Phillip Marlowe might have been tempted to give him a slap. 

The hardbitten-ness comes vis-a-vis Jackson Healy, played by Russell Crowe, a wry, stocky bully-for-hire who ekes out a living delivering warnings to deadbeats, stalkers, and, on this occasion, Holland March. The warning Healy delivers to March — complete with a helpfully pre-diagnosed spiral fracture — comes courtesy of Amelia Kutner (Margaret Qualley), an insufferable rich kid environmentalist whose sudden disappearance seems to be connected to the recent death of a porn star and the Detroit automotive industry.

More than just the eminently quotable one-liners we’ve come to expect from any Shane Black joint — “I had to question the mermaids!” — The Nice Guys also features some impeccably orchestrated physical comedy. There’s a bit of a slapstick involving a gun, a cigarette, and a toilet stall door that’s up there with Abbott & Costello. The plot is more than vaguely similar to Black’s directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: egregiously bad parenting and porn-related hijinks are a recurring theme, as well as the obligatory ill-timed discovery/disposal of a corpse. 

This only matters, though, in the way that plot mattered in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye — a clear influence here — or P.T. Anderson's Inherent Vice; in that it more or less just provides opportunity for various thrills and spills. This orchestrated chaos happens to feature a henchmen who bares an uncanny resemblance to Sacha Baron Cohen, another who’s a dapper psycho (played by Matt Bomer no less) named for one of The Waltons; a Pam Griers-alike, Tally (Yaya DaCosta); a putty-mouthed Kim Basinger (reunited with Crowe, her L.A. Confidential costar); a giant talking bee; and Richard Nixon.

The Nice Guys is darkly comic, hilariously bloody noir in which bystanders take stray bullets and every neighbourhood kid’s a potential grifter. Cynical yet strangely good-natured, the film even has something vaguely resembling character arcs for both its leads. Unpredictable and scattershot, it certainly solves the case of what you should go see in the cinema come June 3rd.

The Nice Guys gets an 8 out of 10