WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS
As the global economy teeters on the brink of disaster, Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf) a young Wall Street trader, proposes to Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan), the estranged daughter of disgraced former Wall Street corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). She despises everything her father stands for and blames him for the death of her brother. Against Winnie's wishes, Jacob partners with Gordon Gekko to alert the financial community to the coming doom, and to find out who was responsible for the death of the young trader's mentor, Lewis Zabel (Frank Langella).
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In 1987, Gordon Gekko's Wall Street mantra "Greed is good!" came too early; in 2010, Gekko's newly published book, 'Is Greed Good?' comes too late. Oliver Stone, always checking the pulse of America's society (and usually finding it faltering in some way) has returned to one of his iconic characters played again by one of America's iconic actors, Michael Douglas. But where Wall Street blistered, Money Never Sleeps blusters; the first half of the film is incomprehensible trader jargon spat out under an overzealous score and sound mix.
We are dragged through Wall Street by insiders saying and doing insider things, all the while realising they are doing BIG insider things that should matter - not only because they are financially BIG but because they are morally suspect. But we have to surmise most of it. Now, of course, unlike in 1987, we see it all with eyes wide open, and the 'moral hazard' lecture is all too relevant. People who take your money but take no responsibility for it are the new sleazebags. As if we didn't know, already yet.
We see all this through the eyes of a young man, Jacob Moore (Shia LaBoeuf) who 'walks both sides of the street': he has a relationship with the upright, morally decent and greed-shunning Winnie Gekko, a young woman who would rather not see the TV news covering her father's release from prison. Yet he is a Wall Street trader himself, aching to make his bones and create wealth by stealth. As opposed to actually doing anything or producing anything.
All this is laid on with a heavy hand and a big trowel as Oliver Stone trashes the financiers and bankers whose greed has gone to their heads - and is now threatening to send the American economy to its grave; the rest of the world with it. The stakes are high enough, but the treatment lacks clarity or genuine insight. The characters are predictable and too simply motivated, the devices (like the clan energy investment vehicle) too transparently pandering to a green sensibility as if to cloak itself in its eco purity.
Terrific performances keep us engaged, though, with Shia LaBoeuf sharp as the young gun, Michael Dougles authoritative as the venal Gekko with a lesson to learn, and Carey Mulligan lovely as the pure, innocent daughter determined not to follow in daddy's rich footsteps - at least not as he might expect. The ever watchable Frank Langella gets too little screen time and both Susan Sarandon (as Jacob's flighty mum) and Eli Wallach as an ageing big shot in finance, carve their names on their scenes.
The film has a few tricks and novelties, a bit of padding and good intentions, but it plays like a loose idea that's been allowed to run away without being filled out with long lasting meaning. And as a warning, it's too little, too late.
Footnote: Asked by an Arab journalist after the Cannes opening night screening of the film, whether the film was "anti-capitalist," Stone paused for a long moment and chose his words carefully, according to salon.com's Andrew O'Hehir. "Stone is not entirely unlike Gekko, in that he plays a double game and is always in danger of succumbing to moral hazard. He hangs out with Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro (with whom he recently filmed a third and presumably final interview), but also wants to keep on making Hollywood movies and flying first-class to Cannes on somebody else's nickel."
Review by Louise Keller:
An opportunity squandered, this highly anticipated sequel revels in its grand scale, but falls down where it matters most - the story. With its serendipitous timing following the volatile Wall Street market downturn, there are even more reasons why we love Michael Douglas' splendidly named Gordon Gekko, whose Greed is Good mantra offers a different perspective of perpetual ripples fresh from 'having done the time'. Charlie Sheen even makes a welcome cameo as Bud Fox, who redeemed himself royally at the end of the original 1987 movie after being seduced by the lure of the greenback.
But the complexities of the storyline about traders, investment companies, toxic debt, bail outs, energy creation, Swiss bank accounts and foul play and where the characters fit in keep us at arms length. Even the central story about Gekko's daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan), with its two-prong emotional thrust involving father/daughter relationship and love interest with go-getter trader Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf), whose eyes light up at the thought of money, has its problems. There are key moments when I simply did not believe that Jacob or Gekko would act that way, which negates everything that matters - notably what is at stake.
On the plus side, New York looks sensational, with its shiny, sleek skyscrapers looming high into the sky like pillars holding up The Temple of The Dollar and there's a picture-perfect sequence in which another greedy investment bank so and so by the name of Bretton James (suavely portrayed by handsome Josh Brolin) races on a power motor bike alongside Jacob, his new protégé, through autumnal forests of ochre, green and gold leaves. The danger of the ride is more about moral hazard and inevitably, everyone gets stung.
The most credible aspects of the film belong to LaBeouf and Mulligan, whose critical scene in which truth and feeling safe within their relationship rings painfully true. Both deliver true to form, this being the first major defining role for Mulligan after her sensational An Education debut. Seeing Douglas as Gekko is a bit like meeting up with an old friend and Douglas is as charismatic and commanding as always. It's much too long and director Oliver Stone seems to have been so close to the project that he lost his perspective. However, Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography is first rate and the film looks terrific. But it could have been so much more.
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WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (M)
CAST: Shia LaBoeuf, Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin, Eli Wallach, Susan Sarandon, Oliver Stone, Frank Langella, Vanessa Ferlito, Jason Clarke, Donald Trump
PRODUCER: Oliver Stone, Edward R. Pressman, Eric Kopeloff
DIRECTOR: Oliver Stone
SCRIPT: Allan Loeb, Stephen Schiff
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rodrigo Prieto
EDITOR: David Brenner, Julie Monroe
MUSIC: Craig Armstrong
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kristi Zea
RUNNING TIME: 133 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 23, 2010