Many readers of AVForums will be too young to remember the original ‘Wall Street’ which was released way back in 1987, so it’s just as well that there are a few of us who were around then with long memories to fill them in with some background information. ‘Wall Street’ was a movie that became an icon of the era. Not only was it an Oscar winner for star Michael Douglas, it set the style for a particular type of person that became known as the yuppy. These were mostly financial types who made huge bonuses and blew them on Porsches as well as opulent lifestyles. It also started a fashion for men in the wearing of braces rather than trouser belts as this was what Michael Douglas’ character Gordon Gekko wore in the movie. Phrases such as “Lunch is for wimps” and “Greed is good” were often bandied about in trendy Wine Bars of the period. Flash forward 22 years and times have changed. The flamboyant confidence of the boom years have gone and the Banks have been bailed out big time by the US and UK governments. What better time for Gordon Gekko to make his comeback in ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ – now out on Region B locked UK Blu-ray.
Since we saw him last, Gordon has been a guest of the American Tax Payer, languishing in one of the State Penitentiaries – after first spending 5 years in and out of court trying to avoid incarceration for insider dealing. Now his time is up and he’s out. The most telling visual that charts the passage of time is when he’s given back his house brick sized mobile phone – cutting edge tech back in the 1980's. In the words of Maurice Chevalier in ‘Gigi’ – “Ah yes, I remember it well.” On leaving the prison, he’s disappointed to find that there’s no brass band or bunting decked out to mark the occasion and has to take a cab back to town. Meanwhile, young (too young) Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) is a trader specialising in alternative fuels and he’s also engaged to Gekko’s daughter Winnie (the very young looking Carey Mulligan). He blows his "over $1 million dollar" bonus on an engagement ring and sinks the rest into the stock of the company for which he works, whereupon the company promptly goes bust. I was warming to this kid as we share the same kind of luck. Over and above this his boss and mentor, Louis Zabel (the great Frank Langella), throws himself under a train. It transpires that the company’s demise has been due to the efforts of another big time dealer, Bretton James, played by Josh Brolin. So now, little Jake is out for revenge.
Gordon Gekko is now a writer and, while promoting his new book, is accosted by young Jake who tells him he’s going to marry his daughter. Now Gordon knows his daughter hates and wants nothing to do with him, but he sees Jake as a way of winning her back. His many former business associates barely remember him, so Gordon also wants to claw his way back to the top again and for this he needs the money held in his daughter’s trust fund. So begins the conniving, double dealing and deceit required for him to become a player again. Will Gordon come out on top? Will Jake achieve the payback he wants? Will Winnie and Jake live happily ever after? You’ll have to watch it to find out.
Directed by Oliver Stone who also directed the original ‘Wall Street’, this sequel is far better than most weakly scripted, fast buck follow ups. Twenty two years on, it has the major benefit of being very topical and timely. It also purports to give us some kind of insight as to how on Earth the major banks got themselves into one big, unholy mess and almost took every hard working guy and gal down with them. It’s about people that we now love to hate. What’s the difference between a dead banker and a dead cat lying in the middle of the road? There are skid marks in front of the cat! Boom, boom – or rather thud, thud.
‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ may not appeal to all audiences as it is quite talky and also requires them to think as well as keep up with the twists and turns of the plot. Having said that, the pace is kept lively and Michael Douglas is on top form, doing what he does best – playing ‘a sinner’. All the time, you’re wondering what’s going through Gekko’s mind. Has he truly reformed or is he still a master manipulator? You know where he wants to go, but the fun is in watching how he uses others to get there.
While Shia LaBeouf was entirely believable as Indiana Jones’ teenage son in ‘...Crystal Skull’, I found it hard to take him seriously as a New York trader because he looks as if he still has the Po marks of school on his posterior. Carey Mulligan also looked awfully young to be running a website with Left Wing leanings and to be sharing a trendy loft conversion with Mr LaBeouf. There was nothing wrong with either’s acting ability, it just seemed as if they were both miscast due to their age. I also felt it a terrible shame that we were robbed of Frank Langella so early on as that guy does scary powerful people so wonderfully well.
It’s interesting to note that Charlie Sheen has a cameo in the picture, playing the same character he played in the original ‘Wall Street’. He was the young kid who idolised Gekko back in 1987, was used by him and who now greets him as an old friend. It would be wrong to reveal the ending, but I felt a tad disappointed. My money is on them having shot two endings and deciding to use the one preferred by test screening audiences.
All in all, ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ is a well made film that held my attention for the duration. I doubt if it would have the same appeal for the MTV generation or fans of the latest blockbuster CGI fest, but if you remember the original or are a Michael Douglas fan then this sequel is well worth a spin.
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