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Old 10-06-2010, 02:57 PM
Oliver Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

http://www.examiner.com/movie-in-ric...y-never-sleeps



http://www.examiner.com/movie-in-ric...y-never-sleeps

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

Oliver Stone returns to the gritty underbelly of Wall Street in this anticipated sequel to his classic 1987 film. Things have changed quite a bit since the end of the first film where we were left with Gordon Gekko being beaten at his own game by a young stockbroker, Bud Fox. The economy has grown worse and there are now people on Wall Street who make Gekko look like a small potato in comparison. This is the world that he must face upon being released from prison.

This is right where the sequel begins. Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is a free man after having served eight years for insider trading and securities fraud. He must now start from scratch and get back in the game. Meanwhile, we meet Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), a stockbroker who is in a relationship with Gekko's daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Jake's mentor and the head of the firm he works for, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella), is currently going through a financial crisis, forcing him to sell off his company to a greedy businessman, Bretton James (Josh Brolin). This has such a big impact on Louis that he decides to commit suicide by jumping in front of a subway train.

In a small attempt at revenge, Jake manipulates some trades which cause Bretton's company to lose about $120 million. This catches Bretton's attention which leads to him offering Jake a job. Jake is also getting to know Gordon, who is also acting as a kind of mentor for him. Gordon wants to be reunited with his daughter, with whom he has not spoken in quite some time, and he thinks Jake is just the person to help him with that. The film follows Jake as he tries to juggle his job with Bretton, his relationship with Winnie, and helping/learning from Gordon.

Just from that description, you can see how busy a film this is, and that's what ends up hurting it the most. On the one hand, the writers (Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff) want it to be another gritty look at Wall Street with a revenge plot, on the other hand, they want it to be a melodramatic family drama about Gordon trying to reconcile things with his daughter using Jake as a medium.

Trying to cram all these things into the film gave it a very unfocused feeling, making it seem like the writers just couldn't settle on what they wanted the film to be about. Then, after trying to focus on all of these plots, they try to wrap things up in a hurry, which makes all of the storylines suffer, especially the one you realize could have been solved from very early on.

The film mentions the state of the current economy, but doesn't really have much more to say other than how it got to this point before jumping back into the melodramatic storyline. This ends up being the storyline that makes it feel like it is dragged out to its 133 minutes runtime, and which didn't really seem like it had a place in this kind of film. The original film had a somewhat similar concentration on a relationship, though it was between a father and sun (as played by Charlie and Martin Sheen), but it was better integrated into the story.

The original film also had an intriguing premise that pulled you in from the start. There are moments in this sequel that come close to that, especially when it gets into Jake's early attempt at revenge on Bretton and later on when he confronts him about leading his mentor to suicide, but it never takes the time to fully invest in these interesting parts of the film.

One of the most fascinating parts of the film comes when Gordon is delivering a lecture to a group of business students. Anyone who's seen the original film remembers his infamous "Greed is Good" speech. Well, now it seems he has changed his mind. Gordon has written a new book called "Greed is Good?" and during this speech, he explains how greed has gotten many times worse since he's been around, and how such ballooning credit can be likened to WMDs. Apparently those eight years in prison gave him plenty of time to think and analyze the current market, leading to different ideas than he original had when he was king of Wall Street.

The bottom line on "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" is that it is sprinkled with inspired scenes like this, but is never able to fully engage the viewer because of its meandering and unfocused storylines. If the filmmakers had wanted to make a drama about Gordon and his daughter, they should have followed through with that film (though it'd be hard to call it anything with "Wall Street" in the title). If they had wanted to make a film that looks into the current state of the economy, coupled with a revenge plot against a cutthroat businessman using the state of the economy to his advantage, they should have followed through on that film. Trying to combine them simply proves that it doesn't work very well. 2.5/4 stars.

Last edited by Hal2001; 10-06-2010 at 03:05 PM..
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