MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’

Written by J.T. Johnson

3-stars

DIRECTOR: Oliver Stone
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Rodrigo Prieto
WRITERS: Allen Loeb, Stephen Schiff
MUSIC: Craig Armstrong

It has been 23 years since director Oliver Stone released “Wall Street”, his commentary on the excesses of 1980s Wall Street and the crooks that ran it. In the first film, the real-life crooks are represented by the character Gordon Gekko, a ruthless businessman played to brilliant perfection by Michael Douglas. The actor even went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his giant performance.

Now, with “Money Never Sleeps”, it’s also been 23 years since Gordon was sent to prison for his crimes in the previous film and seven years since he got out. The year is 2008 and Gordon has tried to warn everybody about the impending doom that the stock market is about to face. No one believes him and he moves on.

In the meantime, Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), a young proprietary trader, is trying to get revenge against Bretton James (Josh Brolin). This is the man who was responsible for taking down the company belonging to Jake’s mentor and employer, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella). After Louis kills himself, Jake eventually seeks the help of Gordon, the man who just also happens to be the father of Jake’s fiancée Winnie (Carey Mulligan).

Like the first film, the story is told from the young trader’s perspective and not Gordon’s as the advertisements for the film might suggest. This is a good thing and it helps tie the film to the original that also told the story from the perspective of Charlie Sheen’s character, Bud Fox. It also helps that LaBeouf turns in a great dramatic performance and, unlike Sheen, does not allow Douglas to steal the show.

In fact, Gordon is not really seen as much in this film as he is in the original or at least it feels that way. There are really two stories being told with character this time. First, Gordon acts as Jake’s mentor, not unlike his role in the original with Sheen. On the other hand, Gordon is also fighting the temptation to get back into the game as opposed to making things right with his estranged daughter.

Douglas’ performance is fantastic. He never lets the audience forget who this man was before he was sent to prison. However, he also doesn’t let them forget that he does truly love his daughter. She may be the only thing he loves more than the money he tries to make.

And speaking of Gordon’s daughter, credit should definitely be given to Mulligan as Winnie. She is just as good as any of the male leads as she definitely makes Gordon earn her respect once again. Mulligan knows that her character hates Gordon, but she also never loses that little bit of hope that maybe Gordon has indeed changed.

Other actors also give good performances such as Brolin who is more of modern-day version of a younger Gordon. Also, Susan Sarandon turns in a performance as Jake’s mother who constantly needs his help. She’s a real estate agent and as anybody knows, real estate wasn’t doing too good after the major crash and is still reeling today. There is also a cameo by Sheen as Bud and while it was fun to see for anyone who watched the original, I must admit that it was ultimately unnecessary.

The other problem with this film is the fact that it is just not as good as the original. It’s slower and does not have enough power like the first movie did. While the 2008 crash is the backdrop of the film, there is no new commentary about the crash and the only thing that remains is the character drama. Finally, the ending is also out of place and ties things up a little too well.

Despite these problems, “Money Never Sleeps” is a good follow-up to the original. Overall, it was also just great to see Douglas back in one of his signature roles.

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