Directed by: Oliver Stone
Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia LeBeouf, Frank Langella
Forgive me for being crass, but our nation’s economy is in the shitter. I know this, you know this, and above all, Gordon Gekko knows this. Oliver Stone’s latest is both a continuation of his 1987 cult classic and a timely commentary on said crisis, addressing several key issues that have ultimately landed us smack dab in the middle of the biggest economic recession since the Great Depression. Picking up right where the original Wall Street left off a whopping 23 years ago, it can be safely assumed that Money Never Sleeps and its legendary antagonist have a lot to say and a lot of catching up to do. Herein lies the following question: Are all these details important? No, no they’re not, and it’s because of the film’s overstuffed plot that this much-anticipated sequel ends up falling a tad short in the realm of full-blown entertainment.
Having not seen the original Wall Street, the only thing I’ve known about Gordon Gekko is that it’s the only character responsible for procuring Michael Douglas’ only Academy Award for Best Actor. Being that greed seems to be the only thing Mr. Gekko values outside of his half-assed attempts to reconcile with estranged daughter Winnie, I pretty much gathered everything there is to know about him in quite literally no time at all. This worked out well for me in the long run you see, as my attention was almost infinitely diverted elsewhere the second LaBeouf’s Jacob and his economically savvy cohorts began spitting all sorts of unintelligible business related super-jargon at one another. Of course these scenes are intriguing and appropriately tense once the market begins to take a nose dive, but coupled with roughly half a dozen side plots, everything that’s relevant to the topic in question becomes a chore to follow, especially if you’re not the most knowledgeable on the matter.
Aside from offering valuable insight into our recent economic downfall, the script itself is surprisingly fleshed out if a bit scatterbrained as I mentioned previously. The characters themselves are quickly established as vital parts of the various instances of corporate downsizing, treachery and turmoil, and it’s because of this that we’re given a chance to pinpoint just who’s worth rooting for and who will inevitably take a dive when the timing is right. Throwing Gekko’s daughter into the mix as a means of stirring up additional conflict is also partially effective, seeing as how she’s the only thing that can convince the conniving, money-hungry scam artist to make a change for the better, even if it takes entirely too long for said change to actually occur.
Wall Street‘s strongest suit is without a doubt its dynamite ensemble cast. Granted, the characters themselves are certainly interesting enough, but what good would this statement be if each role wasn’t played to perfection? Douglas’ efforts first come to mind, which is to be expected, but LaBeouf shines brightest as young upstart Jacob Moore and manages not to be swallowed whole by the former’s alarmingly intimidating presence. Carey Mulligan’s subtly brilliant portrayal of Gordon’s daughter and Jacob’s bride-to-be Winnie also packs a substantial punch, with Brolin and Langella following close behind as arch nemesis Bretton James and Jacob’s late mentor Louis Zabel respectively.
If anything, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is an all-too-relevant look at the country’s present economic ruin and how an iconic, greed-obsessed and morally reprehensible big shot manipulates a naive young protégé into making all the mistakes he made himself over two decades ago. Despite an overstuffed plot, inexplicably long run time and a whole lot more to process than what’s necessary, Oliver Stone’s latest ends up being quite dull. A more than favorable cast makes up for this in part, and although Money Never Sleeps didn’t quite live up to the minimal amount of hype surrounding its release, the timeliness of it all is more than enough to warrant a trip to the theater sometime in the near future.