Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Director: Oliver Stone
Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf
Runtime: 127 mins
Rating: **

Like Platoon that was released the year before it, I like Oliver Stone’s Wall Street not just for its political and social relevance, but because of its enjoyable simplicity. Platoon examines the Vietnam War by placing Charlie Sheen between good role model Willem Defoe and bad role model Tom Berenger. Wall Street examines 1980s American capitalism by placing Charlie Sheen between good role model Martin Sheen and bad role model Michael Douglas, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of the fantastically named corporate raider Gordon Gekko, the man that seduces Sheen’s principled young stockbroker with success and excess.

Twenty-three years later, Stone’s sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, is just as predictable but twenty-three times as dull. Its hero is principled young trader Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf), who’s living with the estranged green activist daughter (Carey Mulligan) of Gekko – recently released from prison and promoting his book ‘Is Greed Good?’ – and working for the investment bank of an honourable, ageing mentor (Frank Langella) in 2008. As the financial crisis begins, Zabel’s company is pushed towards collapse in part by rival banker Bretton James (Josh Brolin), whose involvement in Gekko’s own downfall prompts Jake to try and expose James’ misconduct.

Stone’s original grabbed us by asking the ancient question of what happens when you sell your soul to the devil; this is something that LeBeouf’s character would never do, being a person who’s already too good, in both the moral and successful sense, to put money before love. He nonetheless tries, quite badly, to scheme with and against both Gekko and James, before the plot is resolved with some whistle-blowing that could have taken place much earlier, followed by almost all of the characters quite literally hugging and kissing their way out of the recession.

This ensemble, which includes Susan Sarandon and Eli Wallach, is strong in an unimaginative framework. With cameos for Stone, Sheen and one of David Byrne and Brian Eno’s songs from the original, with an expectation that we’re still in awe of Douglas’ character, and with a lack of either indignation or insight, Money Never Sleeps is sycophantic towards its predecessor without substantially continuing its concerns for a new age.

3 comments

  1. Did you even watch the movie?
    “green activist daughter”? LaBeouf was the green activist, not the daughter. “Recently released from prison”? When Gekko is promoting his book, he has already been out of prison for eight years…

    The film was more ‘Hollywood-like’ than the first one – with the happy ending and all, but it was just as good, if not better. Everyone I’ve met really enjoyed it. Stop being pretentious please.

    GK

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  2. Hi – I think you’re right to say that this follows more Hollywood conventions than the first movie. For me, the simplicity I talked about wasn’t necessarily to do with Hollywood-likeness, but just a question of plot that could apply to novels and plays, as well as films. Selling your soul to the devil is the basic formula in the original, and it works very easily – its in ancient stories that are still around today.

    As far as I can remember, Carey Mulligan’s character is a green activist as much as LaBeouf’s, maybe more so since her work is devoted to more to social justice than to making a profit. Winnie writes a political blog and it’s implied that she’s an enviromentalist; Jake is teased for his green energy investment at the same time as being teased about his dating a blogger so contrastingly different in status to a Wall Street trader. And once Jake has convinced her she could get into trouble for tax evasion, she doesn’t need much persuading to try and invest her inheritance in green energy.

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  3. The second installment did not revolve around the same motif – ‘selling your soul to the devil’. Did you really want to watch a repetition of Wall Street I, just with a different actor?

    No, this film was more about Gekko’s character, his motivation, and his willingness to make a come back – it’s a concept that is just as interesting as selling your soul to the devil (and somewhat similar: after all, Gekko betrays his own daughter in order to get what he wants).

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