Character Study: What Motivated Kyle in ‘Money Monster’

Money Monster is the fourth directorial effort by Jodie Foster, and it focuses on Kyle (Jack O’Connell) taking a television financial host named Lee Gates (George Clooney) hostage live on-air. Kyle feels betrayed by Lee, as the bombastic host made a stock tip that caused Kyle to lose $60.000.

From his first appearance, Kyle is presented as a member of the “have-nots”. As a part-time employee earning 14 dollars an hour, he seems like a person that’s down on his luck, and looking for a fair chance to take a step up the financial ladder. He attempted to make this climb by wagering his inheritance on a seemingly safe investment highlighted by Lee Gates. This didn’t pan out, and Kyle now feels like the world is refusing to give him a break. Through his erratic, and increasingly frustrated behavior we see that Kyle is not one to think things through. While he’s aware that he likely won’t survive the predicament he landed himself in, he does not readily admit why he went there in the first place.

As a viewer, we don’t learn a lot about Kyle’s true motivation until the final showdown of the film. During this scene, it is revealed that the owner of the company Kyle invested money into intentionally short-shifted his own stock to pay for a business deal gone wrong in South Africa. With a bomb strapped to his chest, the owner admits that he thinks its wrong he was legally allowed to do it, prompting Kyle to say “That’s all I wanted to hear.”

Looking back at Kyle’s choices throughout the film, this line explains a lot of his behavior, as well as his motivation for taking Lee Gates hostage in the first place. Kyle feels responsible for losing the money, and wants to have someone to point the finger at. He is not looking to recoup his loss, as evidenced by two separate people offering to settle his score, rather he is looking to remove the stench of failure from his life.

In a brief scene between Kyle and his girlfriend Molly (Emily Meade), we see that Kyle is looked down upon by his loved ones. Molly sees him as less of a man due to his poor life choices, and through her short moment with Kyle she does nothing but berate him.  Within this framework, his failure to make money on an investment Gates called safer than his savings account, was the final straw. He needed to regain a shred of his self-respect, and this could only be achieved by hearing the man he deemed responsible for his loss admitting he was the one to blame. Therefore, when Walt Gamby (Dominic West) satisfied this urge within Kyle, a weight was lifted off his shoulder. Harking back to his awareness that he would die in his plight to gain this satisfaction, he could now die knowing that he was not to blame for losing the money, and feeling like the world would not see him as a failure anymore.

While his motivation is a bit hidden throughout the film, if you were to go back and re-watch it with this frame of mind, it would be a lot more apparent why Kyle is acting the way he is. Foster alongside screenwriters Jamie Liden, Alan DiFiore, and Jim Kouf manage to conceal his true motives for most of the film, which may frustrate some viewers, but actually makes the film a lot more compelling upon a second viewing.

Kris Solberg
Kris Solberg
26 year old Norwegian native. Fond of writing, reading comics, watching movies, playing games, and anything else that might peak my interest.