Theatrical Review: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

As we start, it’s 2001 and one Gordon Gekko is being released from prison. All he has are the possessions he came in with and a large amount of paper and notes, with no one to meet him as he’s released.

We move up in time to 2008 and we’re introduced to Jacob Moore and his fiance Winnie, who’s last name just happens to be Gekko (and yes, she is Gordon Gekko’s daughter). Both are getting up for the day, he’s a rising investment banker with the firm of Keller Zabel Investments and she runs a web site devoted to the environment. Jake is very much concerned about the environment as well with one of his pet projects being the financing of a company devoted to fusion energy as a future clean energy source. As they’re getting up, Jake flips on the TV and we see Gordon Gekko being interviewed about a new book that he’s written call “is Greed Good?” Winnie wants him to turn off the TV and have nothing to do with the man.

From there, we go to watch Jake at work at KZI, and learn of his close connection with the head of the firm, Louis Zabel. Zabel gives Jake a check to the tune of $1,300,000+ for his star performance and gives his young protege some sage advice about his future. And then the bubble bursts with the first huge financial crash of 2008 leading to a series of events that finds the young Jake seeking out Gordon Gekko in what is first a revenge scheme.

There’s quite a bit more to say about Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps but I’d just as soon you discover more of that if you should choose to see the movie yourself. Of course this is a much anticipated sequel to Oliver Stone’s original Wall Street which first told us the story of Gordon Gekko and the seduction of a young Bud Fox into Gekko’s way of doing business. The original got Michael Douglas an Oscar for his performance of Gekko, and Stone was going to be back at the helm for this sequel. There was a lot to look forward to here, especially if you’re a fan of the original and of Stone I’m both, though Stone has fallen a bit for me over his last couple of films.

He’s back in form here though and I have to say, I had a great time with this movie.

Now Stone is obviously known for putting his political and social messages to the forefront of his movies. He certainly did it with the first movie and he’s doing it again here. One thing, even though the first movie does have it’s message, at it’s core it’s heavy melodrama, and he hasn’t lost sight of that. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is heavy melodrama as well with somewhat simply drawn characters (on paper) in complex situations. Stone relies on his cast to get more weight with his characters and he gets it. He’s also wise enough to resort to some of the same tactics that he used in the first movie (split screening during a trading process as a for instance), which keeps this one right in line.

As I said, the characters are somewhat simply drawn, though that’s not across the board. There’s been a lot involved behind what Gordon Gekko would be like over 20 years later. His perspective has changed though his charm has not. This isn’t just Michael Douglas doing a re-hash of what he did in the 80s and I certainly appreciate that.

This is really well paced, though don’t go in expecting the same sort of pace that you would with something much more action oriented. It is a drama and so it moves a little more relaxed, but sets things up in the right way. It gets a little more self-reflective than what the original did, but I was sort’ve hoping for that considering that it’s been 20+ years since he made the first film.

Douglas certainly stands out, and I certainly looked forward to every scene he was in, but the rest of the cast does quite a good job as well. Shia LeBeouf plays Jake Moore and as far as Im concerned this is the best I’ve seen from him yet. He’s not as naive as Bud Fox was in the original and where Bud had much to still learn from his father, Jake is in the opposite direction and has much to give to his mother (played by Susan Surandon) who herself is a definite product of the real estate boom. There’s a real earnestness to what LeBeouf does here and it was great to see.

Carey Mulligan plays Winnie Gekko and though she is more simplistic in her motivations, but it’s not annoying and at times it’s even touching. Josh Brolin plays Bretton James,the head of a rival bank called Churchill Schwartz and hugely responsible for the fall of Keller Zabel. Brolin’s the villain of the piece, though unlike Gordon Gekko, he’s there to be a definite villain. Brolin excels at this sort of thing and he doesn’t disappoint here. The last cast member that I want to call out is Frank Langella who plays Louis Zabel. This is terrific work from Langella, who’s in this briefly in comparison to everyone else, but it’s pivotal. He’s weathered but also fiery when he needs to be and what happens to him is key to putting everything else in place.

I think Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a terrific film and the best thing I’ve seen from Oliver Stone in quite awhile now. Will it carry the same impact that the original did? Well, I doubt that. I watched the original about an hour before I saw the new movie. The original to me has a lot in common with Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas with a powerful seduction with a particular lifestyle that carried quite a bit of weight with it’s audience (hell, I knew guys who changed their wardrobe styles thanks to Wall Street) Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps doesn’t quite have the same impact, but then it’s subject isn’t as new as what it was in the first film. It’s also something that’s much more adversely affecting the public today and so I don’t think this will get quite the same embracement that the first film did. I do think it’s a definite advancement from the original and for that, I think it’s well worth seeing for those that do want to see it despite the times.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

26. September 2010 by Darren Goodhart
Categories: Text Reviews, Theatrical Review | 1 comment

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