Wall Street” revisited: Boom or bust?
This was a sequel worth making.
First of all, it wasn’t a rush job, nor does it try to capitalize on trendy market hype. Coming 23 years after Oliver Stone’s original treatise on greed that provided Michael Douglas with an Oscar and a character that captured a cultural zeitgeist, it seemed time to revisit Wall Street.
While the film looks as sharp as a three piece pinstripe from Bloomingdales, and features some nice character-driven moments, its bubble bursts in an ending that feels compromised and false. And it misses a chance to say something loud and clear about the recent market meltdown. But “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” is not a complete bankruptcy.
Douglas gives a terrific performance reprising his original role as financiering icon Gordon Gekko. Now it’s 2008 and Gekko has spent eight years in prison for insider trading. He walks out a lone man with only some personal items to his name, but is he a changed man? It appears he is, hitting the streets hawking his book “Is Greed Good?” while noting in one speech that, “While I was away, it seems greed got greedier, with a little bit of envy mixed in.” Douglas is in fine form again here and there’s even a powerfully redemptive moment when he reaches out to his estranged daughter Winnie (a well-cast but under-utilized Carey Mulligan). The film leaves just enough doubt in the viewer’s mind about the snake beneath Gekko’s seemingly humbled skin.
His protégé this time around, Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), is also his daughter’s fiancé. Moore is a hungry stock trader himself with a passion for green technology and with the motivation to exact vengeance on brokerage dynamo Bretton James (Josh Brolin). This suits Gekko perfectly since he has a grudge of his own against James. The two team up, but you know someone is going to get hurt.
Stone has the components of a terrific thriller here, and Manhattan’s skyscrapers, back-country speeding Ducatis, and boardroom battles bristle with beauty and verve.
While well-acted however, too much of how the characters respond rings hollow. Winnie’s disgust over her father’s past should cast a nuclear shadow of doubt about Jake. She’s too smart to react the way she does, and we don’t buy her emotions in the film’s closing moments. For all its insider dialogue and seeming intent to comment on the current state of capitalism, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” ends up being a sharp-looking, appropriately complex, but ultimately shallow cautionary tale.
More Gekko, less “deco” would have helped.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and thematic elements.