Film Review: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

The return of Gordon Gecko

2010 – 132mn – 12A

Directed by Oliver Stone. Starring Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin, Frank Langella, Charlie Sheen.

Review by Walter Nichols

ALONGSIDE Platoon and Natural Born Killers, the original Wall Street is one of the films most emblematic of Oliver Stone’s career. Gordon Gekko is the role Michael Douglas will doubtless be remembered as, and Charlie Sheen’s part in the film is also the peak of his career (don’t trust anyone who tells you Two and a Half Men is anything less than self-satisfied drivel).

A sequel had been rumoured to be in the works almost, it seems, from the second the film came out; but it took all of 23 years for it to reach our screens, under the rather dreadful cheap paperback title Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Gordon Gekko (Douglas again) is released from the jail, just as the world’s economy topically and conveniently teeters on the brink of collapse. Gekko sets himself the task of alerting the Wall Street community to the coming disaster, all the while taking under his wing young trader Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf), who is going out with Gekko’s estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan).

It all sounds well and good, but the film never quite comes off. Douglas slips back into Gekko beautifully, holding the screen effortlessly, and the stellar supporting cast (Josh Brolin, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Eli Wallach) live up to his challenge. But the two young co-stars, LaBeouf and Mulligan, feel awfully lightweight in comparison – Mulligan especially is teary-eyed, dramatic, deep-voiced, and ultimately surprisingly bland. The film spends too much time on their melodramatic romantic subplot.

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While the film is technically beautiful and, in many ways, fascinating, it also suffers from feeling like Oliver Stone Lite. One can tell the director is looking for a hit, consciously attempting a mainstream film – a little like his previous film W, about George Bush, Money Never Sleeps feels like it’s made by someone who doesn’t want to seem one-sided, eager to please and not offend, and so keeps on making concessions and compromises. Needless to say, this isn’t what makes Oliver Stone a great filmmaker. Money Never Sleeps should be an angry, radical film; instead it’s sleek, breezy, and weightless.

The film is at its best when Stone focuses on ambition, greed, and predatory practices in relationships. That should have been the whole film, but it’s only part of it. You’ll walk away ruing the missed opportunity.

Star rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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