Updating a hit from the eighties may be Oliver Stone scraping at the bottom of his proverbial barrel, but it seems that it works for him a bit. After years of hits and misses, well, mostly misses, it’s refreshing to have a film from the iconic director that doesn’t totally suck. And as relevant as the actual Wall Street was in the late eighties, it is even more relevant today.
Best of all, Stone doesn’t skimp on the true details in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. One who wasn’t familiar with the exact reasons megabanks fucked our economy can learn about it, and come to hate investments bankers as much of the rest of the world.
Michael Douglas, of course, reprises his role as the greedy former titan of industry Gordon Gekko. The beginning of the film sees him released from prison around 2000, and the passage of time is made annoyingly obvious by the return of his Saved by the Bell model cell phone. Gekko uses the next eight years to write a book.
Shia LaBeouf is the new Gekko named Jake, a young up-and-comer on Wall Street who seems to be a bit more idealistic, but is blinded by the multi-million dollar bonus checks, and billionaire mentors. Jake just so happens to be engaged to Gekko’s estranged and pregnant daughter Winnie (a fantastic Carey Mulligan).
As you can guess, the markets fail, the government bails out investment banks before the world economy crashes. Rich white men, steal and cheat other rich white men, while riding Ducatis and attending $10,000 a plate fundraisers where Charlie Sheen shows up dating twins.
Allan Loeb (Things We Lost in the Fire) and Stephen Schiff (The Deep End of the Ocean) worked together to come up with the usually tight, and well paced film. But it’s Stone’s style that really brings the ridiculous atmosphere of Wall Street to life. Although sometime he borders on the ridiculous (for some reason if a scene is shot in a night club, it’s shot all psychedelic-like). At a few points in the film, it gets to be slightly too much, overly simplistic in its condemnation of Stone’s own characters (like in W. when he intimated Bush was so stupid, he got his entire cabinet lost on his own ranch).
But with all these complaints, I left Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps feeling like I had experienced a solid Zeitgeist film that ended on a weak note, but provided plenty of satisfying moments on the way. Stone was very much aided by a terrific cast. As much as I’d like to dismiss Shia LaBeouf as the next Spielberg golden boy, and nothing more, he actually put out a solid performance. And Mulligan as Winnie is as perfect as anyone could hope the character could be. Josh Brolin, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, they’re all great. As much as I like to despise Stone’s work, he didn’t do such a bad job on this one.
Great acting and a relevant and accurate story make Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps almost as good as the original.