Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Eli Wallach, Frank Langella, Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon
Allan Loeb, Stephen Schiff, Oliver Stone (Characters), Stanley Weiser (Characters)
20th Century Fox
Commentary by Director Oliver Stone
A Conversation with Oliver Stone and the Cast of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Have you ever watched a film 10 or 20 years after your first viewing and found yourself thinking "Man, this film sure looks dated now?"
That's the feeling one gets watching Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, a film 20+ years in the making that has the look and feeling of a film that might've been made a good 20 years ago.
It's difficult to fathom why anyone would want to see Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, not because it's an awful film (It's not!) but because we've been living this crap for the last several years and why in the hell would we want to spend our hard-earned cash to go see a film that essentially preaches about why we common folk have less hard-earned cash?
The original Wall Street had the rather good fortune to be released a couple of months before a stock market crash, during a time when most of America would have likely agreed with Gordon Gekko's assertion that "Greed is good."
Such really isn't the case anymore, at least not unless you happen to work on Wall Street or in the higher-end corporate world where more bang for the buck is still the motto and where screwing the next guy down on the corporate ladder is a way of living.
But, really, can Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps be considered entertainment?
For the sake of the two leading performances alone, those of Michael Douglas and Shia LaBeouf, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is worth a view as both are at the top of their games here and Douglas, in particular, is a joy to watch as he revisits a character first created 23 years ago and completely and utterly inhabits him once again.
In this film, Douglas's Gordon Gekko has been released after a lengthy prison stint and begins to redefine himself in a world that has changed. In a not so subtle coincidence, he finds himself hooked up with a young idealistic investment banker, Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), who not so coincidentally is engaged to Gekko's estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan). As is true of virtually every film made by Oliver Stone, Jake is a bit of a wandering soul in search of a mentor after his mentor's (Frank Langella) firm is brought down by a greedy, powerful broker (Josh Brolin) who makes Gekko look like Mr. Rogers.
Virtually none of it matters.
While the interplay between Jake and Gekko is electrifying early on in the film, their relationship feels forced and without purpose and, given Gekko's history, it's nearly impossible to buy into the concept of any genuine motives for the previous poster boy for corporate greed.
Stone co-created these characters and had his hands on the script for the first film, but here he's stepped aside for Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff. Loeb and Schiff can't seem to decide if they want this film to be about corporate greed, about the relationship between Gekko and Moore or simply about Gekko himself. The result is that none of the three storylines are satisfying, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps bounces around all over the place.
Douglas proves himself to be the consummate actor here, managing to humanize a man who in many ways represents the dehumanization of the corporate world into a heartless and faceless behemoth. Douglas's motivations are never fully revealed, and Douglas manages to be electrifying and focused despite a script that is bland and stunningly lacking in focus.
LaBeouf initially impresses, mostly in his verbal joustings with Douglas and the sheer determination with which he sets forth a plan for revenge against the man who'd caused the collapse of his previous firm and mentor. However, by the mid-point of the far too long 127-minute film LaBeouf has started to lose his way and his relationship with his fiancee' is played out virtually devoid of anything resembling conviction.
Among the supporting players, Langella shines most brightly while Josh Brolin chews scenery in a way we haven't seen in quite some time and manages to turn a rich and complex character into not much more than a caricature. Carey Mulligan is luminous when on screen, but the gifted actress is given far too little to do. Susan Sarandon is an afterthought here, while the film's cameos might as well have winked and shouted "Mr. Obvious."
Stone tries to throw in a few special effects, graphics and other distractions to give the film some energy, but it's too little and too late.
Far from a disaster but a major disappointment given the source material and the topic's current relevance, in this Wall Street money may never sleep but it may very well put you to sleep.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic