Movie Review – Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Plot: The sequel to the 1987 film Wall Street.  Money Never Sleeps takes place in 2008, as the country faces economic turmoil.  The film follows Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), a brilliant young trader on Wall Street whose investment firm tanks, leading the founder and Moore’s mentor (Frank Langella) to commit suicide.  Jake allies himself with Gordon Gekko (recently released from prison and Jake’s future father in law) to try and take down powerful billionaire trader Bretton James (Josh Brolin), who they suspect is not only responsible for Jake’s firm going bankrupt, but was also the man who sent Gordon to prison years ago.  

Although the original Wall Street was released twenty-three years ago, Gordon Gekko remains one of the most iconic film characters of the last thirty years.  It’s no surprise Oliver Stone would want to revisit one of his more famous creations.  What better way to reintroduce Gekko to the world than right now as our country continues to face tough economic times.  And this is why the movie works so well.  Gordon Gekko was a slime bag who constantly chanted “Greed is Good” in the original Wall Street, but like most movie villains, people loved him because he was such a bad ass.  It’s ironic because you would think we’d hate someone like Gordon, especially now in these times.  But throughout the film, Stone shows us that Gordon was nothing compared to the greed of Wall Street in 2008 with the character of Bretton James, played brilliantly by Josh Brolin, the true villain of the film.

The performances overall are the strongest part of the movie.  Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) is really the central character.  He looks like he’s 12, but I really bought him as a big time Wall Street player.  LaBeouf has proven he can carry a movie.  His best moment is a confrontation he has with Brolin’s character and his acting more than keeps up with all the veteran performers on the screen.  Although part of the weakness of the film is that Jake doesn’t really go through any changes, whereas the Charlie Sheen character in the original does, so the character development is a little weak.  Brolin as I mentioned before is great and rivals Gekko’s sliminess from the original.  Langella is also very memorable in the short time he’s on screen.

But of course the man who steals the show is Michael Douglas.  Gordon Gekko is a different character than he was in the original, but he’s still a bad ass in his own ripe.  Despite being broken down and his wealth no longer existent, Gekko still comes off as this all knowing financial prophet of sorts.  The real soul of the movie is that Gekko has come out of prison reformed.  He’s seen as the hero compared to the other traders on Wall Street.  He only wants to reconnect with his daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan).  You sympathize with him because his daughter hates him for unfair reasons.  But the real reason why this movie works is because Gekko was such a memorable jerk in the first picture, that even though he appears to be redeemed, you still get the lingering feeling he could resort back to his old ways.  And that is the greatest question of the film and it’s what kept me interested.  You really should watch the first one right before seeing this.

What’s also great other than the acting is the film has a lot of memorable individual scenes.  Much like his previous film, W, Oliver Stone certainly isn’t subtle, but that just brought the intensity level up a notch.  One of my favorite moments is when all the heads of the financial scene come together after crap has really hit the fan and stocks are tanking like crazy.  It was like the meeting of the five families in The Godfather.  Everyone is just freaking out.  The tension here was great and there are many moments like this.

The biggest weakness that almost derails the entire film is unfortunately the ending.  Oliver Stone did a fine directing job up until this point.  It was quite frustrating.  There is an obvious end point that really ties the story up nicely.  In fact, I thought it was the end so much that I started getting up to leave, but then the movie continued for another 10 to 15 minutes.  I don’t want to spoil it, but the characters ultimately end up making choices that don’t make any sense and almost contradict the point Stone was trying to make in the first place.  It’s an ending that develops poorly and comes out of no where.  There’s also a useless sub-plot involving Jake’s mom (Susan Sarandon) that serves no purpose whatsoever.

Despite the ending and one useless storyline, it’s a very good movie.  Although slow at times, and the Wall Street jargon is a little hard to understand (especially for a dumb English major such as myself), I was riveted by the characters and plot.  The beginning was a little rough because Gekko is absent for a long period of time at the start and you’re only thinking about what that bastard is up to.  But the characters grow on you, as does this film.

A worthy follow-up to the original.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)

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