September 24, 2010
Review - " Wall Street Money Never Sleeps "
(in theaters) By Roland Hansen
For comments or to submit a movie review for possible inclusion on Delta Films site
please send an email to Critics@deltafilms.net
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia Lebouf, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin,
Eli Wallach, Susan Sarandon, Frank Langella
In some ways “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” feels more like a
remake than a sequel of “Wall Street”, the iconic film that focused on
the inner workings of the financial markets and the scandals involving
junk bonds and insider trading of the 1980s. The film earned Michael
Douglas an Oscar for his portrayal of Gordon Gekko, the ruthless
insider who takes down several companies before he is finally caught.
The new film begins with Gekko being released from prison, so we
know the time frame is 15 years after the events of the first film. But it
all seems so familiar, as though we have been here before. It opens
with the same sweeping panorama of the New York skyline, this time
with the Twin Towers conspicuously absent. Once again the story
focuses on a young, ambitious investment broker trying to break into
the big time and keep up with the pros, but instead of Charlie Sheen
as Bud Fox, the new kid on the block is Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf).
Once again we watch the ticker tape of the young broker’s first big
trade falling steadily until the thud of the closing bell at the end of the
day. Once again the wise fatherly stockbroker is named Lou (perhaps
because Oliver Stone’ own father, Louis, was a stockbroker). Once
again the young broker is trying to get funding for a company he
believes in. We even see the same real estate broker (Sylvia Miles)
that Bud Fox used in the original “Wall Street.” And yes, Charlie
Sheen does make a cameo appearance, with a babe on each arm,
channeling his alter ego from the TV show “Two and a Half Men” more
than the sadder but wiser Bud from the 1987 movie.
The story line is similar, too. Gekko wants revenge against a rival investor, and he uses the cocky young broker to help him
get it done. The details are different, but the story is essentially the same. While “Wall Street” focused on the junk
bond/insider trading scandals of the mid-1980s, “Money Never Sleeps” focuses on the economic meltdown of 2008. New
York hedge fund trader and wunderkind Anthony Scaramucci acted as a technical advisor on the film, and the result is
technically accurate, though sometimes to a fault. As the film moves from boardroom to boardroom and talking head to
talking head, it is often difficult to understand and process their words before the next dialogue-heavy scene appears. At 2
hours and 13 minutes, the film is long, and the editing is a little too tight. We keep stumbling into conversations that have
already started, between people who already know what is going on.
Often those conversations and talking heads are presented in split-screen projections, along with a graph or two, so while we’
re still listening to one speaker, the next one has already started. It’s almost as though the editors knew they couldn’t make
the movie any longer, but they couldn’t bear to throw anything out, so they presented it all at the same time. Some of the
computer graphics are pretty cool, like the one that outlines London’s Tower Bridge in the background as it demonstrates a
company’s rise and fall. I suspect that ten years from now those graphics will look dated and hokey, however.
I just decided to stop trying to understand all the techno-jargon and just focus on the storyline: Something bad is happening.
And those two attractive young lovers are caught up in it. That worked for me.
The two young lovers are Jake and Gekko’s daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), who hasn’t seen or spoken to her father in
several years. Jake wants to bring the two of them together again, ostensibly “to help her heal,” but really to get closer to his
idol, Gordon Gekko, who, despite being a jailbird, is still packing in the crowds on the lecture circuit, where he is promoting
his new book, “Is Greed Good?”
Once again, the film shines when Michael Douglas is on the screen. Yes, he is older, but he still has that great self-confident
smile, that swagger. He’s still talking about greed, and he’s still just as flippant. He quips, “Once greed was good. Now it’s
legal…” and everyone laughs cynically, as though greed was ever illegal. I wanted to counter, “Theft is illegal. Fraud is
illegal. Greed is human nature.”
Gekko continues, “Greed makes the bartender take out three mortgages he can’t afford … Greed makes parents buy a
$200,000 house and borrow $250,000 against
it to go shopping at the mall … Greed got
greedier with a little envy mixed in … They took
a buck and shot it full of steroids and called it
leverage.” He’s right about those things
happening. Many people who are underwater
on their mortgages got there today by
borrowing the equity out of their homes and
using it to pay off credit cards, invest in
businesses, or pay their children’s college
tuition. Or, yes, go to the mall. Others got there
because they bought at the top of the market,
expecting the bubble to continue rising. But
they couldn’t have done it without banks giving
them outrageously unsubstantiated loans. So
why are we bailing them out? Greed was
always legal. It just wasn’t healthy.