Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
In 2008, the financial crisis in America unraveled, leaving dozens of companies bankrupt and millions of families without jobs or financial security. That serves as the backdrop to the sequel, WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS. Leading the charge this time is Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), a young, hungry stock broker that’s looking for revenge on Bretton James (Josh Brolin), the man he holds responsible for the death of his mentor (Frank Langella). But Jake is not alone in his quest for revenge because lucky for him, he’s engaged to Winnie Gekko (Carrie Mulligan), the estranged daughter of former financial tycoon Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas).
In the original WALL STREET, Gordon Gekko made being greedy and financially powerful cool. His monologues could get the heart pumping and were the equivalent to an exciting action scene or an intense sports moment. Gekko is a great character and one that will always live in movie history as one of the best pseudo-bad guys ever created. Which is why it was hard to see Gekko as a beat down man, manipulating his own daughter and her boyfriend. This is not the Gekko I know. The Gekko I know would go right after his enemies and make them suffer, then deliver an eloquent, memorable speech that justified his actions.
But that didn’t really happen in WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS. And when the payoff came in the third act, it felt so forced and rushed that I wasn’t even sure I wanted it anymore. All of the greatest things that Gekko did in the film were glossed over and too much time was spent on Winnie and Jake’s reactions to those betrayals. And Oliver Stone got way too carried away with trying to make a political statement with the film and the financial crisis turned out to be a predominant theme in the film that often overshadowed the characters. I’ve only dabbled in day trading and I’d like to consider myself an educated man, but there were times in the film where the deeds of the characters were so convoluted and confusing that it was hard to follow along with who was doing what and why they were doing it. Given the amount of time spent on explaining the financial crisis and the corruption on Wall Street, the audience should have walked away with a better understanding rather than feeling more confused.
The film created about a dozen side stories, none of which were developed enough to make the audience care. We should have rooted for Jake and Winnie to get together, but their reasoning for breaking up was so forced, I couldn’t care. And the big betrayal by Gekko should have been devastating to watch, but because we didn’t see what happened, the tension was never there and therefore, neither was our interest. These were major points in the film and the failure to make them purposeful falls on Oliver Stone, who gave one of the worst directing performances of his career. Stone should know better than to date his movies with cheesy computer graphics and out of place split screens, but he did it anyway. I don’t know if that was supposed to be an homage to the 80’s, but it didn’t work.
Bretton James was the face of all evil in the movie, representing the government fat cats and the source of everyone’s anger. Between destroying financial firms, he managed to find time to carry out a personal vendetta and rat out Gordon Gekko back in the 80’s. I’m okay with the filmmakers creating another villain, but Bretton James was laughable in how many cliché’s he fulfilled. And Eli Wallach is getting some early Oscar buzz, which is puzzling given that everything he said in the film was distracting and awkward. What was going on with that bird sound he was making? The audience I saw the movie with laughed out loud when his character muttered “it’s the end of the world” in such an overly dramatic fashion, which wouldn’t have been so bad if the scene it occurred in was supposed to be funny.
The performances in the film were great, even though no one had top notch dialogue to work with. But this was Douglas’s film and the burden was on Gekko to carry the movie along. It wasn’t Douglas’s fault the film faltered, but without great words, an actor can only do so much. Shia was his usual great self, but his character was pulled in so many directions that he eventually became a distraction. As for Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon, they were so underused that they shouldn’t have even been in the film.
Obviously, WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS was a bit of a letdown. It had a good recipe to be great, but the story was too crowded and the script was too unpolished for it to be anything other than a disappointment. Gordon Gekko is still one of the greatest characters we’ve seen on the big screen, but unfortunately for us, lightning can’t strike twice.