Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – Review


The ’80s are known as the “Decade of Excess,” when the rich got richer and the poor tried to keep up. The 2000s haven’t been given a nickname as of yet, but looking back, it seems like they were worse. Middle income families were in houses that were too big and too expensive for them; loans given out like T-shirts from a gun at some sporting event. Wall Street was making money hand over fist, while the regular people in America were spiraling into debt without even noticing. When the sequel to the 1987 film Wall Street was announced, some people asked why. It seems Gordon Gekko’s infamous “Greed is Good” has been the motto for not only the ’80s, but the past decade as well.

Michael Douglas reprises his Oscar winning role as Gordon Gekko, the Wall Street tycoon always planning his next deal. He’s just been released from prison for insider trading, and he’s eager to step back into his daughter Winnie’s (Carey Mulligan) life. Winnie operates a non-profit news web site and has no interest in reuniting with her father. However, ironically, her new fiancé Jake (Shia LaBeouf) is an up and coming Wall Street trader.

The date in which the film is set is the year 2008, and it’s just before the stock market collapse. The audience knows it’s coming, but Jake doesn’t. He’s caught up in the money and the fast pace of Wall Street, living the high life. When the crash happens, it hits him hard. His mentor, Lewis Zabel (Frank Langella), commits suicide because of the severity of the crash, and Jake suspects it had something to do with Bretton James (Josh Brolin), their hedge fund manager. As Jake struggles to find his footing after his mentor’s death, he turns to Gekko and Bretton for guidance. But Gekko has his own reasons for helping Jake. He knows Winnie doesn’t want to see him again, but he leverages his advice for scheming with Jake to reunite him with his daughter. Jake is caught in the middle.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is exactly how sequels should be made. Not when the studio wants to cash in on a money making franchise, but when a sequel is timely in its release. The ripples of the recession have been felt all across the country. Now that we’re starting to see the silver lining, it’s easier to look back and see a fictionalized account of the real events that caused our economic downturn. Shia LaBeouf is the perfect actor to take us on this journey. Young, educated, successful, enthusiastic, we want the best for him. When the crash happens, we don’t exactly feel bad for him, but we still want what’s best for he and Winnie.

Gordon Gekko wants to reunite with his estranged daughter, but he can’t let go of his greed. Douglas plays this character with the same fervor he played it in the ’80s. He’s still a fast talker and manipulator, and he excels the game he plays. Since he shows interest in Winnie, we want them to reunite. We want Gekko to put aside the “game” so he can make things right with his family, but he doesn’t. In that, he lets Winnie and the audience down.

The performances are what makes Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Douglas is on his game, Mulligan demands your attention, and LaBeouf forces you to put aside any preconceived notions you may have about his acting chops. Brolin and Langella, though not major characters, give unforgettable supporting performances.

What’s ultimately frustrating is the ending of the film. We watch as Gordon plays everyone around him, Jake getting sucked into his greedy lifestyle. Winnie begs for them to stop, and they are unrelenting in their quest for power. But in the very end, Oliver Stone drastically switches tone from depressing emotional drama to happy romantic comedy. It’s hard to believe Gekko would be happy with that kind of ending. Perhaps Stone wants to give the impression that the recession is over? Everyone can have happy lives now that the worst is behind us? It seems a little too optimistic given the tone of the rest of the film. America isn’t out of the weeds just yet, neither is Wall Street. The motto “Greed is Good” defined the past twenty years, Wall Street in 1987, and should also define its sequel.

Director: Oliver Stone
Notable Cast: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin, Frank Langella
Writer(s): Allan Loeb, Stephen Schiff

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