Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is an inexplicably titled movie that inexplicably came into existence after decades of the franchise well, not being a franchise at all. The original Wall Street was a fine film, and certainly no need of a sequel? Why then, would we get one twenty years later?
It appears Oliver Stone thought that the current news of our time necessitated the return of Gordon Gekko, and I assume the film was conceived based on one of his lines, “I was reminded that I once said, greed is good. Now it seems its legal!”
And so it is, as the 2008 collapse of our financial markets told us. We didn’t know what the hell was going on at the time, but since then we’ve learned that essentially a bunch of rich people wanted to get richer, quicker, and made a lot of risky bets with OUR money, bets they lost and then expected the government to save them, lest they all die and throw the world into a financial meltdown the likes of which it has never seen.
The build-up and the eventual bust itself is not the main focus of the film, but merely the backdrop. The characters in the forefront do some shady things with large amounts of money, but it’s not the reason for the bigger meltdown, which is something than can’t be blamed on a mere few souls.
But villains the film needs, and villains it creates. As for heroes? They’re few and far between.
The closest the movie gets to one is Shia LaBeouf’s Jake Moore, a young boy genius ibanker with emphasis on the “boy.” LaBeouf is perfectly adequate in the role, and I’ve never had any problems with him as an actor, but watching a kid who looks like my 17 year old neighbor receive bonus checks for a million and a half dollars is a little outside my range of believability. He’s earnest, as he’s highly motivated to get the clean energy revolution going, but he’s motivated by money almost as much as anyone else in the film.
If this stock goes up another two points, I can buy an Xbox!
Moore is dating Carey Mulligan’s Winnie Gekko, and that might clue you in as to how dear old Gordon (Michael Douglas) makes an appearance. Fresh out of jail, he connects with Moore and the two hatch a plan to give Gekko a chance to reunite with his daughter, and Moore the cutthroat financial advice he needs to sink Josh Brolin’s Bretton James, the head of a rival banking firm that drove Moore’s mentor (Frank Langella) to suicide by starting rumors about his company causing it to collapse.
Gordon Gekko is as slimy as ever, but seems to be playing nice for the majority of the film. But this leads to the world’s most expected plot twist, as if a new Nightmare on Elm Street movie opened with Freddie Kruger running a day care, you might expect things might not turn out so well by the end of the film.
Oliver Stone’s main goal with this film seems to be to get you to hate rich people, if you didn’t already. It’s like if Michael Moore’s Captialsim: A Love Story, was given a fictional script and A-list actors to work with. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I think it’s an interesting way to show how the financial collapse happened, though I suspect many Americans won’t even make the connection to reality.
The movie is formulaic, there’s no doubt about that. Just when things are going well, you know they’re about to tank, and when things are at their worse, never fear for a happy ending is on the horizon. In this case it comes with a scene after the credits that’s so feel-goody it’s almost nauseating .
Don’t worry, everything will be fine in 27 minutes.
The film is also far too long, which is strange because it’s actually only a bit over two hours. It spends the first fifty minutes winding up, with Gekko not even in the picture, and the last fifty winding down, and ends more times than Return of the King.
But all in all, the film feels satisfying in a way. It’s nice to see a thriller where no one throws punches or pulls guns. Yes, the financial mumbo jumbo will go over most people’s head, and those who can actually understand it will say it doesn’t add up, but it works in the moment, and formulaic as it may be, I found myself enjoying the film more often than not.
Did it need to be made? No. But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded how greedy some of us in this country really are, and Stone’s style here is more appreciated than all the charts and graphs Michael Moore can throw at us.
3 out of 5 stars
“Wall Street: Mo Money Mo Problems? Wall Street: Time is Money? Help me out here guys.”