“Slick” is one word that describes Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Oliver Stone’s sequel to his 1987 morality tale about greed and self-destruction among stock market wheelers and dealers. Another word is “unnecessary.”
The year is 2001 and Michael Douglas is back as Gordon Gekko, the role that won him an Oscar 22 years ago. History is not likely to repeat itself. Gekko has served eight years for insider trading, securities fraud, money laundering and racketeering, but aside from his scruffy haircut, scuffed shoes, gray hair and the fact that his cell phone is out of date, nothing has changed. No friends, enemies or family show up at the federal prison to greet him, including his estranged daughter, Winnie (a wasted Carey Mulligan). Mr. Gekko is a forgotten man, but he’s got plans.
Cut to 2008. An ambitious new high-roller S.O.B. named Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), a pint-size version of the ruthless market trader Gekko used to be, is making millions at an investment firm run by his 75-year-old mentor, Lou Zabel (Frank Langella). Jake is also in bed with Gekko’s idealistic daughter, an environmentalist who thinks he’s dedicated to saving the planet. But before Jake can prove his intentions are honorable, his firm is saddled with toxic debt and driven out of business at a meeting of the Federal Reserve Bank, where it is denied a government bailout. Another hardball villain named Bretton James (Josh Brolin) takes over the rival company for a fraction of its value and drives Jake’s ruined boss to suicide. Broke, unemployed and in mourning, Jake attends a lecture at Fordham University by Gekko, who has spent the past eight years writing a book about his get-rich schemes called Is Greed Good? While trying to reconcile Gekko with his daughter, Jake also seizes an opportunity to use the legal loopholes in the anemic financial system to doom the U.S. economy. Instead of rehabilitation, Gekko, the disgraced former king of Wall Street, is inspired by his unstoppable junior shadow to climb back up the ladder, destroy kingpin Brolin and make a comeback by stealing Winnie’s $100 million trust fund. Everyone lies and cheats in a blind attempt to make money as the markets crash around them. Almost everyone in the movie is despicable, so who cares? Did I fail to mention that the script (by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff) is so technical that it is rendered very close to incomprehensible?
This is a world about knowing the price of all things corporate and the value of nothing at all, about buying and selling lives on the stock market like T-shirts, where declarations of bankruptcy signal no more surprise than weather reports. There’s an enormous amount of talk about leverage, speculation, borrowing to the hilt and global malignancy, not to mention elaborate conversations about growth levels in solar energy technology, fusion hardware and ocean-thermal-
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS
Running time 133 minutes
Written by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff
Directed by Oliver Stone
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Michael Douglas, Carey Mulligan, Frank Langella, Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon