Movie review of “Money Monster”: George Clooney plays a TV finance guru taken hostage by one of his bilked viewers — but the movie doesn’t live up to its promising premise. 2.5 stars out of 4.

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An uneasy mixture of thriller and grim comedy, “Money Monster” depicts a situation that seems all too possible. A live-television broadcast, hosted by hammy finance guru Lee Gates (George Clooney), is interrupted by the arrival of an irate follower of the show named Kyle (Jack O’Connell), who’s lost everything after following Gates’ investment advice. He storms onto the set, armed and unstable; Lee and the show’s longtime producer Patty (Julia Roberts) must talk Kyle down and untangle a vast financial conspiracy in front of millions of viewers.

All of this in a tidy 95 minutes sounds promising, right? Unfortunately, “Money Monster,” though perfectly competent, is one of those movies that promises more than it delivers. In the interest of keeping things tight, director Jodie Foster and the screenwriters let the story play out in real time — which means that we barely know Lee and Patty before Kyle wanders onto the set. The stakes aren’t high enough — we’re not sufficiently invested in their fate — and the movie’s blend of suspense, wit and melodrama often feels oddly off-balance. Too bad, because the idea of Clooney as a smarmy, tap-dancing huckster seems like gold. (Literally: He dances in a gold top hat in the show’s opening, and quite decently, too. Would somebody please get this man a musical? With Channing Tatum? But I digress.)

You watch “Money Monster” wishing it were a little better — it’s refreshing to see a summer studio movie that’s neither a superhero epic nor a sequel, and one in which grown-up actors do their jobs. Roberts, as Patty, has a wry efficiency; this character is long-resigned to the fact that she’s not saving the world. (“We don’t do ‘gotcha’ journalism here,” she snaps at a staffer. “We don’t do journalism at all.”) O’Connell (“Unbroken”) finds something vulnerable in the damaged, troubled Kyle and Clooney, of course, can do fast-talking charm in his sleep (but, thankfully, doesn’t). Ultimately, “Money Monster” is always watchable — but forgets to give us a compelling reason to watch.

Movie Review ★★½  

‘Money Monster,’ with George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito. Directed by Jodie Foster, from a screenplay by Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf. 95 minutes. Rated R for language throughout, some sexuality and brief violence. Several theaters.