Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
could have been a scathing indictment of the greedy millionaires/billionaires who sent the economy into a tailspin from which we've yet to recover. With Michael Douglas
back as Gordon Gekko, the morally corrupt corporate raider, Stone's sequel to 1987's Wall Street
should have had a real bite to it, with the collapse of the housing market and the bailout of financial institutions still impacting our lives and not yet just painful memories. Could haves and should haves abound when speaking of this sequel, as missed opportunities and a love story that doesn't work make Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
a real snoozefest.
There's no zing to Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff's script. Granted, some technical stock market jargon had to be used to make the film feel authentic. But there's an overload of the technical terms and when combined with an elaborate but confusing side story on competing green energy sources, it risks losing the attention of the audience early on. And without a single redeemable character to latch onto, this Wall Street
follow-up is simply a cold, disconnected piece of work. You're left not caring one iota about what happens to these people who seem to never suffer any real consequences for their actions.
The Story Money Never Sleeps
kicks off in 2001 with Gordon Gekko being released from jail after serving out his time for insider trading, racketeering and other nefarious activities. Standing alone outside of prison, Gordon's been forgotten by the world. Not even his daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan
), is there to greet him. However, Gordon may be down but he's not out. He sets to work writing a book all about his get-rich-quick schemes.
Flash-forward to 2008 and Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) is a rising star at the investment firm run by Lou Zabel (Frank Langella). Lou's Jake's mentor and friend, but the 75 year old Lou appears to be losing his footing in the market. The market's about to go into free-fall, and Lou's company is not in any shape to survive the crisis. The Federal Reserve Bank steps in and, led by Lou's rival Bretton James (Josh Brolin), forces Zabel to sell off his company for pennies on the dollar. Losing his business and with his reputation ruined, Lou steps in front of a train and leaves others to clean up the mess.
Carey Mulligan and Michael Douglas in 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.'© 20th Century Fox
Jobless, Jake takes in a lecture by Gekko, who's now a bestselling author and who also happens to be Jake's girlfriend's estranged father. After the lecture, Jake seeks out Gordon and after briefly sizing each other up, they make a mutually beneficial deal. Gordon wants to be back in his daughter's life and Jake wants to pick Gordon's brain about who could possibly be behind the collapse of Lou's company and ultimately responsible for forcing Lou into taking his own life. Jake wants revenge, Gordon wants back in the game, and neither is afraid of getting their hands dirty. Lying, cheating, back-stabbing and playing loose with other people's money - it's all in a day's work for these Wall Street types.
The Acting and the Bottom Line
Michael Douglas is terrific as Gordon Gekko, though he's ill-served having to deliver quips that sound like advertising soundbites rather than dialogue. And I'm not just referring to the speech Douglas as Gordon delivers at the college where he meets Jake. In that case it's a speech in which he's selling himself and the book, and it's appropriately strewn with catchy phrases. No, nearly every line Douglas has to spout sounds like a fortune cookie saying, and everything comes off as scripted.
Shia LaBeouf's okay as Jake and Josh Brolin makes for a great villain, but Carey Mulligan is given the short end of the stick as Jake's love interest. It's a totally disposable character and Mulligan is wasted in the role. Susan Sarandon shows up for a couple of bizarre scenes in which she plays Jake's mom, a former nurse who's losing her shirt in the real estate market. Why this character is even in the film is a complete mystery.
Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.'© 20th Century Fox
Money Never Sleeps
is hitting theaters when the gapping wounds created by Wall Street bigwigs are still fresh, and moviegoers who were directly impacted by the recession (meaning 90% of the film's potential audience) aren't going to walk away from this film feeling as though anyone involved will ever be punished. It's unsatisfying in that way, and painful. If we can't get justice in real life, it would have been great to have gotten it on the big screen but that just doesn't happen.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
is the story of greedy people taking advantage of the system. The film feels as though filmmaker Oliver Stone is simply taking advantage of audiences who hold the original in high esteem, serving up a sequel that pales in comparison to its predecessor. Truthfully, the disturbing stats scrolling across the screen detailing America's financial collapse were the most interesting things about Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was directed by Oliver Stone and is rated PG-13 for brief strong language and thematic elements.
Theatrical Release: September 24, 2010
Disclosure: This review is based on a screening provided by the studio. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy