If there is one constant that emerges from the new sequel to Oliver Stone’s groundbreaking, Oscar-winning 1987 picture Wall Street, it’s the universally acknowledged truth that the power of the family bond always tends to prevail. That said, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is an enjoyable film that, in spite of its mix of remarkable high-points and disappointing dips, has the trappings of a powerful drama. That’s saying a lot for a film that is a tad overlong (at 136 minutes) and periodically unfocused.
At its best, though, Wall Street 2 serves as a wonderful showcase for the acting chops of Shia LaBeouf, who is rapidly maturing into a charismatic, charming leading man, and he convincingly holds his own in the numerous scenes he shares with his more seasoned colleagues Josh Brolin, Frank Langella, and Michael Douglas.
Speaking of Douglas, this film is as much his as it is LaBeouf’s, and he makes the long-awaited return of the sharky Gordon Gekko, while nothing spectacular, frequently riveting and occasionally humorous. As the malevolent Wall Street hotshot who returns from prison after an eight-year stint for insider trading, Douglas (who won his Oscar 23 years ago for originating Gekko) skillfully portrays a master at zoning in on people’s emotional weak spots and taking delight in seeing them “squirm.”
In one scene, Gekko’s daughter, Winnie, played by the adorably talented Carey Mulligan (An Education) says, “I’ve never known my father to be a peaceful man, and that always scared me.” Well, she is not alone.
On the surface, Wall Street 2 is about the global economy teetering towards collapse, shameless ambition, and vengeance – and the ubiquitous triumvirate of money, power, and respect. At its core, however, lurks a somewhat underdeveloped examination of familial bonds (whether by blood or forged connections), particularly in the patriarchal relationships among Douglas, Langella, and the younger co-stars LaBeouf and Mulligan.
The main plot of the film, however, centres on Jacob Moore, a young Wall Street trader whose mentor (Langella) ends his own life one day by jumping in front of a moving train. What drove him to such despondent action? To help him get answers, Moore teams up with the newly-released Gekko on a mission to unearth long-buried skeletons and alert the financial community of impending doom. But what is Gekko, the master manipulator, really after? Redemption? Hardly likely. For Gekko, it’s always about the trade, and satisfying his greed – “the game,” as he unashamedly puts it.
Sub-plots, meanwhile, involve a sinister corporate bigwig (played with subtle brilliance by Josh Brolin) and Moore’s romance with Winnie that’s wrapped in an intimate chemistry that is nothing if not splendidly sweet. The narrative from screenwriter Allan Loeb (Things We Lost in the Fire) is largely engaging but runs out of steam as the movie draws near to its real conclusion (there are a few!). Shortcomings aside, Stone still manages to keep the picture from capsizing.
The action, storytelling, and cinematography (including some stunning aerial shots of the architectural grandeur of New York City) make good contributions. Stone makes some smart directorial choices, and the actors invest in their roles admirably, but in the end Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps yields mixed results.Powered by Sidelines