Now out of prison but still disgraced by his peers, Gordon Gekko works his future son-in-law, an idealistic stock broker, when he sees an opportunity to take down a Wall Street enemy and rebuild his empire.
As the global economy teeters on the brink of disaster, a young Wall Street trader partners with disgraced former Wall Street corporate raider Gordon Gekko on a two-tiered mission: To alert the financial community to the coming doom, and to find out who was responsible for the death of the young trader's mentor. Written by
"If you stop telling lies about me, I will stop telling the truth about you."
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps isn't the sharp, critical film that its makers want you to think of it as. The sequel to the supremely influential, endlessly quotable original from the 80's is a dull whimper about what triggered the present financial meltdown and though it's cut from the same cloth as the original, it possess all of the bark yet, sadly, none of the bite.
Gordon Gekko is a name that defined an era. Played by Michael Douglas twenty three years ago, he reverberated in the minds of viewers as a ruthless, amoral investor without a soul. Years later, the sequel finds him released after serving his prison sentence. Cut to seven years after his release, and its 2008, the dawn of the financial crisis. Gekko is now known as a speaker publicly vilifying the notion of greed in corporate America while simultaneously, and some would reckon quite ironically, publicizing his book inspiringly titled "Is Greed Good". A loner who travels in subways, he is estranged from his daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan, androgynously unglamorous) who is engaged to a young trader named Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf). Jake bumps into Gekko at one of his speeches (the films finest scene) and the two form a mentor-protégé relationship that irks Winnie but allows Jake to benefit by plotting revenge from Bretton James (Josh Brolin, the films principle villain), suspected of being responsible for the suicide of Louis Zabel, a close friend and confidant of Jake.
If the film sounds like a mess of relationships, then it is. As muddled as Stone's own political activism it has no clarity on what its trying to say. From trying to rationalize the reasons behind the market crash to the impulsive nature of human behaviour, it doesn't get either right. Not helping are the actors that Stone assembles. It's a mystery to me why Shia LaBeouf is constantly being thrust down viewer throats in film after film by studios convinced he is the next best thing. He is not, and despite being dressed up in expensive designer garb, cannot pass off as being anything more convincing than a working intern. His relationship with Gekko has none of the enticing quality that Charlie Sheen's Bud Fox did and a cameo appearance by Sheen only underscores this disparity. Douglas himself has none of the limelight. He has some powerful lines, but feels largely sidelined by the revenge/relationship/murder subplots and behaves uncharacteristically, especially in the very last scene (these were probably added as an afterthought). After showing some promise of returning to his incendiary, often infuriating filmmaking style and point of view with his previous film W, director Stone seems to have gone back to being comfortable working with drab studio approved material.
Not only was the original Wall Street a tremendously entertaining film, but one that was blessed with the critical foresight of its maker. The sequel partially entertains but does not have a new perspective. It is neither critical nor insightful and could have, with the same script and actors, been the work of a lesser director than Stone. The films themes are also impersonal - none of the characters suffer directly from the financial crisis the way they did in the original, they suffer from their own incompetent decision making, a sharp departure from how the original handled and fused stock trading with personal loss and gain.
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