“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” Movie Review

     Rarely does a film maker revisit one of his best films made 23 years prior and determine its time to make a sequel.  Oliver Stone; however, felt it was time because in 1987’s “Wall Street”, he predicted the demise in the financial sector and no one listened.  So what better time to bring Michael Douglas and his famed Oscar winning character Gordon Gekko out of prison and show all of us just how far we have fallen.  “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” begins with the release of Gordon Gekko after his serving the most harsh prison sentence ever given a white collar criminal.  Eight Years.  As sequels go, you may not see one this good for a while.  I consider the original to be my #6 movie of all time, so as you can imagine, I was looking forward to this one and it didn’t disappoint.

     With Gekko now out of prison and fresh off his first book deal, he meets Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), a trader on Wall Street who is engaged to his daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan).  Winnie hasn’t spoken to her father in years and harbors deep resentment towards him for not being there at crucial times due to being in prison.  In the meantime,  Jake’s employer is about to go under because of the ruthless business dealings of Bretton James (Josh Brolin).  Thus the plot sets in motion with Jake using Gekko to help call the plays in his revenge against Bretton, and in return Jake making every attempt to reunite Gekko with Winnie.  The film is far more emotional and perhaps, sentimental than its predecessor.  Whereas the original was populated with characters who were after just one thing, money, this film shows the soft side of its characters and keys in on certain relationships.

     Of course in the center of all this is the financial crisis as the events of this film take place in 2008 when many of Wall Street’s biggest financial firms where about to collapse pending the government’s biggest financial bail out in our nation’s history.  Brolin’s character is the head of one of the banks and could symbolize anyone of the real life CEOs who we blame for this country’s problems.  As the story goes on, these issues are all laid out during conversations in back rooms and board rooms.  Sub Prime loans, debt leveraged to the hilt, companies bought for pennies on the dollar, are all covered here and are put in a way which will ensure the viewer understands who is to blame.  Some may be surprised to find the financial crisis serves only as a setting in the film.  With so many subplots and the need to catch up with the characters after 23 years, there really isn’t room to focus on any one thing.

     I felt the best parts of this film were the characters.  They are given all sorts of great things to say and you see a humanness in each person.  Yes, many of these people are sharks in the financial world, but in truth each has a soft spot.  Even Gordon Gekko.  Fans of the original may be a bit disappointed in that as Gekko is not barking out things like “I want every orifice running red” like he did in the original.  To study this man now is to see someone who had a lot of time to think in prison and he probably realized that many things are more important than the almighty dollar.  To pull this off, Douglas doesn’t change the Gekko character, he evolves it.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s still the same deal maker, he just has a bit of a heart now.  Ironically, he even deems himself as poor since he can’t afford the ticket to a $10,000 per plate dinner and must insist Jake pick up the tab!

     As the films central character (similar to the Bud Fox character in the first), Jake has already made his first million and seems to throw around money in the hundred thousands like we might buying coffee at Starbucks.  He’s ambitious, but he is against breaking the rules.  His dilemma is solely based on revenge and sticking it to the guy who he feels tore down the company and man he considered to be his mentor.  LaBeouf has already played the young up and comer role with another famous actor with his turn in Indiana Jones.  Here he is again sharing screen time with another titan in Douglas and you can tell he is maturing before our eyes.  Its performances like this that make me forget what I saw of him in Tranformers 2.

     Oliver Stone has basically pulled off the same thing he did in 1987.  He’s made a great film, with a timely and topical story and great acting.  His characters are believable and the film is highly entertaining.  The film does not reach to the heights of the original simply because this is a sequel and we’ve been here before.  Gekko is not as menacing a character as he was in 1987 because, quite frankly, there are worse out there now.  In the film Gekko even says it best himself during a speech “Once I said Greed is Good, apparently now its legal.”  As a prognosticator, Stone may be on to something because our bright financial minds probably dismissed the notion that illegal activity was going on in Wall Street back in the 80’s.  I hope they will listen now.  As a director, Stone continues to prove again and again he is one of the best ever and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps continues in that tradition.  One thing is for sure, even 23 years later, Blue Horseshoe STILL loves Anacott Steel!  GRADE: B+