Gordon Gekko is a perfect character to explain our recent financial crisis. The iconic performance by Michael Douglas, led to the still-upheld mantra of “greed is good.” Seeing as how it was greed that got us all into our current economic mess, Oliver Stone has found that now is a fitting time to trot out Gekko for another morality tale. In Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Gekko isn’t the villain, but possibly our savior.
It’s 2008, and Jake (Shia LaBeouf) is a twenty-something high-roller at a banking institution. Jake’s boss and mentor, Lewis Zabel (Frank Langella), is forced out of the business, leaving Jake working for Bretton James (Josh Brolin), the very man rumored to have caused Zabel’s downfall. Jake’s girlfriend, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), is the daughter of the infamous Gordon Gekko (Douglas), who just happened to recently get out of prison. With Zabel out, Jake is left looking to Gekko for answers regarding the crumbling economy, leaving Winnie fearful that her father might leave her life in shambles once more.
Most of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, rings as an accurate update on one of the most iconic 1980’s film characters. Gordon Gekko is back in full force. As with the original Wall Street, Gekko doesn’t get an extrodinary amount of screen time, as the Jake character is the main protagonist. LaBeouf does a fine job, but he, along with his real-life girlfriend Mulligan, certainly have the least interesting roles in the film. Josh Brolin is fantastic here, as is (of course) Douglas. The scenes that the two share together are absolutely enthralling; it’s just a shame that there aren’t more of them.
Oliver Stone has always worn his political opinions on his sleeve. He’s not the type of director that makes the audience ponder what message he’s trying to get across. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is absolutely no exception. Style is one of the biggest differences between Money Never Sleeps and the first film. The most jarring stylistic choice in Money Never Sleeps is the rampant use of CGI throughout the film. The effects are well done, but still threw me off almost every time. When Jake explains how molecular fusion works, it’s nice to see a visual representation. It’s the computer-generated pulls from monitors, and unnecessary split-screens throughout the whole film that come off as unnatural.
While Money Never Sleeps rings true for most of the 133 minute runtime, the last ten minutes or so turned me off completely. As to not spoil anything, Gekko’s character is practically negated, making the end of the film seem like a complete cop out. Is Stone attempting to change the reputation of one of the 1980’s greatest movie villains? Whatever he’s trying to do, it’s certainly not working. Stone drags us along for ten minutes too long, and shows us a few sickly sweet scenes that quickly turned a film I enjoyed into a film I came close to disliking.
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