Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Michael Douglas and, uhm, that actor who's not Tobey McGuire, from Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

Michael Douglas and, uhm, that actor who's not Tobey McGuire, from Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

Oliver Stone’s Wall Street sequel falls short

– review by Shawn Conner

Market forces being what they are, we have Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

The sequel to 1987’s Wall Street, the new movie brings back Gordon Gekko, the first flick’s emblematic greedhead. We have missed Gekko, perhaps more than we know – certainly the screenwriters (who should be paid for their efforts entirely in Ajax-laced cocaine), director Oliver Stone (who co-wrote the first movie but is not credited here) and Michael Douglas all know it.

The irony is, Douglas has become a better actor in the intervening time, but Money Never Sleeps gives his Gekko exactly one good line, and that only in the way Douglas spits out each syllable: “Gordon Gekko is back.”

If it had ended there, then Money Never Sleeps – while not in anyway in danger of being mistaken for a good movie – and its participants could at least have emerged with some dignity intact. Instead, it drags on for at least 20 more interminable minutes, tying up stupid loose ends (guess what? the stock-trader protagonist Jake Moore’s girlfriend who is Gekko’s daughter is pregnant! But they break up because of Gekko! But is even the mighty financier enough to keep them apart? Excuse me while I throw up.)

Gordon Gekko (Douglas) relates to his estranged daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Her moles are more interesting than the script.

Gordon Gekko (Douglas) relates to his estranged daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Her moles are more interesting than the script.

Where Charlie Sheen‘s Bud Fox, in the first movie, was at least a complex character (as complex as allowed in a mainstream Hollywood flick), Shia LaBeouf as Jake Moore is completely insubstantial in a goody-goody role. He can’t hold the screen for a second against Douglas.

Josh Brolin, so perfectly cast in W. and No Country for Old Men, is completely wasted in a Peter Gallagher role. (It’s symptomatic of Money Never Sleeps‘ faults that Sheen’s cameo, which could’ve been so good, is boiled down to a satiric jab at the actor’s public persona rather than making any point connected to the first movie.)

Josh Brolin and Peter Gallagher - separated at birth.

Josh Brolin and Peter Gallagher - separated at birth.

Then there are the weird directorial decisions. Early on, at a speech* Gekko gives while pimping the book he’s written, Stone cuts to the audience applauding at really bad lines that are obviously supposed to hark back to the original but are really just super-lame (instead of that movie’s “The thing about money is, it makes you do things you don’t want to do” we get, “You’re all fucked”).

When Moore is in the car with his fiance Winnie, Gekko’s daughter, he gets a call from one of his colleagues, an attractive female stock trader; her face is superimposed, literally, over Winnie’s as Winnie drives. It’s just weird! There’s no reason for it!

What’s most disappointing is that the original Wall Street is a movie that actually cries out for a sequel, particularly in lieu of all that’s happened in the world of money since. But the collapse of the stock market is glossed over, and becomes no more than a minor subplot late in the movie that barely moves the action along, in a script that is at once both convoluted and simplistic. The amortization of Gordon Gekko ends here.

*This was at about the 30-minute mark, and is when I mentally checked out and stopped trying to make sense of the movie, hoping only to get some enjoyment out of the loving shots of New York and Douglas’ craggy, crafty face.

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