Review: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
PLOT: A young Wall Street trader (Shia LaBeouf) looking to avenge his mentor’s (Frank Langella) ruin by a corporate raider (Josh Brolin) teams up with the newly-reformed Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), who also happens to be his girlfriend’s (Carey Mulligan) estranged father.
REVIEW: WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS strikes me as a somewhat unnecessary sequel. The original WALL STREET is a classic of its era, and remains star Michael Douglas’ defining role. A sequel coming no less than twenty-two years after the original film seems like a bit of a cash grab, especially as it teams Douglas with hot young actor Shia LaBeouf. I mean, c’mon- didn’t we go down this road just a few years ago with INDIANA JONES & THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL?
Luckily, MONEY NEVER SLEEPS is actually a pretty damn good film, and easily the best thing director Oliver Stone’s done since ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, way back in 1999. Certainly, the film is timely, with the recession cutting a swath through our economy, and people more than ever distrusting big money Wall Street traders. Where WALL STREET was a product of its “greed is good” time, MONEY NEVER SLEEPS is a product of our own multi-billion dollar bailout era. As Gekko himself puts it in the film, “greed is no longer good, apparently it’s legal too”.
Slipping back into his iconic custom made Brooks Brothers suits, Douglas hasn’t missed a beat in the last twenty two years. The film opens in 2001, on the eve of 9/11, with Gekko getting out of jail after an eight year stretch in ‘Club Fed’ (it’s explained that he spent five years tied up in court with one scandal after another). In a clever nod to the original’s era (that’s been used in pretty much all the trailers), one of the items Gekko gets back upon his release is his ancient, brick-like mobile phone.
From there, the film skips ahead seven years, to early 2008, several months before the stock market crashed. Gekko’s now become an author, who predicts the upcoming recession, which falls upon deaf ears. The only one paying attention is LaBeouf’s do-gooder trader, Jake Moore, whose own firm has just been hit hard, leading to the disgrace of his mentor, the fatherly Frank Langella. LaBeouf is convinced the man to blame is Bretton James (Josh Brolin), a high living corporate raider. As James is partially responsible for Gekko’s own imprisonment (it’s learned that the events in the original film were only the tipping point), he’s all to happy to take the man down, especially if it helps him reunite with his estranged daughter Winnie, who now runs a left-wing, Huffington Post-style website.
An important thing to note is that despite being a sequel, MONEY NEVER SLEEPS is a much different film than its predecessor. Here, Gekko’s somewhat reformed, and no longer (entirely) the snake he was in the original film. That said, Douglas still gets to be his oily best here, particularly in the third act, where we get more of the old Gekko magic (including the slicked-back hair).
Gekko’s not the only one who’s sanitized, as the protégé role, played by Charlie Sheen in the original, has also been toned down. Sheen’s Bud Fox was almost as greedy as Gekko, even though he found his conscience in the end. Here, LaBeouf’s Moore is clearly a good guy from the start, with his only interests being Gekko’s daughter, investing in clean energy, and, of course- vengeance. While I prefer the Sheen character- who gets a short cameo; with him and Gekko hilariously greeting each other as old friends, LaBeouf’s nonetheless very good here. Truth be told, I’ve always liked LaBeouf, who’s growing more and more into a leading man with each successive film. My only issue is that both LaBeouf and Mulligan seem a tad young for their roles, and at times it felt like they were kids playing dress-up, in their fancy suits, and swanky loft.
The supporting cast is about as good as you’d expect, considering the top-notch talent involved. Brolin makes for a slimy corporate bastard, even if he doesn’t come off as quite the player Douglas did in the original. In a smallish role, Frank Langella impresses, and you’ll never believe that the same guy played DRACULA (to great acclaim) thirty years ago. I also had a ball seeing old Eli Wallach (who’s NINETY-FOUR!!!) pop up in a key role, proving that while he may still be as old as celluloid, he’s still as sharp as he’s ever been.
My only issues with WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS was that in an attempt to ape the split-screen style of the original film, Stone goes a bit overboard with some of the cheesier effects like super-impositions, fade-outs, and an iris-in at one point. That all worked in 1988, but in 2010 it’s a little much to swallow. I also thought the ending lacked the bite the original film’s conclusion had, but then again- this is a different kind of film. Overall, it’s a worthy follow-up to the classic original. Hopefully Douglas, who’s suffering from a bout with cancer, will bounce back soon and provide us with more indelible characters like Gekko for years to come.
|Extra Tidbit:||Another nod to the original film, lots of David Byrne, and Brian Eno on the soundtrack.|