Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

22 Oct

Title: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Year: 2010
Director: Oliver Stone
Writers: Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff
Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Eli Wallach
MPAA Rating: PG-13, brief strong language and thematic elements
Runtime: 133 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 55%

I found myself liking Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the sequel to 1987’s highly praised and influential Wall Street. This wasn’t as great a film as that one was, not by a mile, and Michael Douglas, reprising his role from the first one, though really good in this one wasn’t as good as he was then, when he won an Oscar for his performance as Gordon Gekko. But I liked this sequel quite a lot, maybe it’s because, as sequels go, this one’s really good, maybe it’s just because I can’t see a fault in any film that features the lovely Carey Mulligan, I don’t know, but I liked it.

Oliver Stone is back in the director’s seat for this one, and much like he did back in the late-eighties he tackles a very relevant topic, when the global economy is shaken up by recent events, and he still has Michael Douglas to anchor the film. And even though, as I said, Mr. Douglas isn’t as good as he first was playing Gordon Gekko, that’s mostly because that’s virtually impossible, because he was just too damn good in that first outing, but he’s still terrific in this one, and shows that, at age 66 and battling an advanced throat cancer, the man is still delivering great performances like this one, and the one he gave earlier in the year in the excellent Solitary Man, for which I think he should be lobbied for an Oscar nomination.

Gordon Gekko in that first film became the prime example of the greedy Wall Street financial trading mastermind, getting himself millions while not caring for the rest of the economy so long as his pockets were full. When Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps opens he’s leaving prison, and so we embark on a new story with new characters. And the story we get is quite fun and unlike so many Oliver Stone films, isn’t just about the political statements it can make. I mean, sure, there are some social commentaries in the film, but considering this is an Oliver Stone film, I was surprised at how calmed down it was, I guess I go into all his films thinking they’ll be more charged with opinions. And while there were indeed times in which I wanted the angry Oliver Stone back, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, instead, is just a solid and entertaining film.

Gordon Gekko seems to be sorry for what he did, he’s a lecturer at a business school and seems to be willing to turn his life back around after his stint in prison. But then he meets a young trader named Jake, played by Shia LaBeouf. Jake is terribly ambitious, is already doing well, and in him Gekko sees the opportunity to get back into the game. Not only into the game of Wall Street, but into the game of regaining a relationship with his daughter, Winnie, the character of the always amazing Ms. Mulligan.

Jake, you see, is dating Winnie, and wants to marry Winnie. And Winnie hasn’t spoken to her father in years, not really forgiving in for what greed made out of him. The huge crush I have on Ms. Mulligan aside, she’s an actress that honestly brings something incredible to everything she’s in, she has an amazing screen presence, and that feels in this one too, Winnie Gekko is a polarizing character. the romantic subplot isn’t really that interesting on the surface of it all, but it gets interesting when you think about why she’s dating a trader, when she hates her father precisely because he was one.

Shia LaBeouf isn’t an actor I particularly like, he’s was good in Disturbia but that’s about it. I thought I wouldn’t be able to really like this film because I don’t really like him, but in the company of Mr. Douglas and Ms. Mulligan the guy’s definitely bearable, and thank goodness for that, because this is a film that has a lot to do with his character. You see, his father figure, and head of the trading house he works at, Louis Zabel, commits suicide after his firm goes under. Now, the firm goes under because the bad guy of the movie, played by Josh Brolin who had previously collaborated with Mr. Stone in W, has been spreading rumors about the stability, or lack thereof, of the firm, and of course those rumors, in this already crumbling economic climate, won’t result in anything good.

Jake wants to humiliate Mr. Brolin’s character, Bretton James, wants him to pay for leading his father figure to suicide. He also wants to impress Winnie and make himself some money in the process. And he figures he can somehow get all those three things in one fell swoop, and, it stands to reason, that as one mentor leaves the picture, a new one must come in. And of course that new one is Gordon Gekko.

Mr. Stone has crafted a good film, a film I genuinely liked, one that has Michael Douglas doing wonders in a role he already did wonders in over two decades ago, but doing a different sort of wonders, because his approach to Gordon Gekko, though just as effective, is completely different, which is obvious considering just how much his character has gone through since that first film. And one that offers a bunch of other fine performances, Ms. Mulligan, as I said, is perfect in her role. As is Mr. Brolin, who even though he also made this year’s abysmal Jonah Hex is truly one of the more consistent actors working nowadays. The great Frank Langella, who has a short role as Louis Zabel, completely knocks it out of that park, much like he usually does with every role he’s given, and Susan Sarandon also appears in this one, as Jacob’s mother, and she’s another scene-stealer.

I said this was a restrained Oliver Stone. And it is, but you will leave Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps kind of hoping the guy would have been a bit less merciful, hoping he would have taken stabs at the economy like we know he can. Because that’s fun to see, and this is a film that does such a phenomenal job at depicting the world of traders that an angry Oliver Stone would have been great. But nevertheless, this is still a pretty damn good flick, and we have Ms. Mulligan’s character to do plenty of the angry commentary on the industry, blaming it for what it did to her father, and blaming it for what it seems to be doing to Jake.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is ultimately a very smart film because it knows its environment so well, and one that has Michael Douglas returning in top-form to his most iconic role, and that has a slew of new characters that move this one forward. It kinda loses itself after it takes the first hour to set everything really nicely for us, after that first hour it’s just a little too loose, and never really finds a great level of cohesion. But cohessive or not, this is still a very entertaining two-hour-plus ride, and whether you loved the first one or haven’t even seen it yet you should go check it out.

Grade: B+


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