As sequels go, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a curious one. It arrives more than two decades after the first movie and yet the timing is perfect. The global financial meltdown provides an apt backdrop for the return of Gordon Gekko, the iconic predator from the first film, who was originally written as a villain but was so instantly seductive that he became a role model.
Money Never Sleeps begins with Gekko being released from jail after doing eight long years for insider trading. He is older, wiser but still as wily. Looking at the super-predators who have replaced him on Wall Street, Gekko, played with superb relish by Michael Douglas, remarks: “Someone reminded me that I once said ‘Greed is good.’ Now it seems it’s legal.”
This time, the young gun role is played by Shia LaBeouf, who is Jake, a hot-shot trader and is dating Gekko’s estranged daughter Winne, played by Carey Mulligan.
Without telling Winne, Jake joins hands with Gekko to take revenge on the mercenary Bretton James, played nicely by Josh Brolin, who has engineered, through rumors and a take-over, the suicide of Jake’s mentor. This tangled web of deceit and damaged relationships is played out against the economic crash.
There is fine acting, strong dialogue and lots of juicy material here but intriguingly it doesn’t coalesce into a thrilling film. Director Oliver Stone creates a few crackling moments – the opening when Gekko gets out of jail is sad and funny – but the script is too diffused to pack a wallop. The screen is always busy with shiny Manhattan skylines, split-screens and stock-market graphs but the plot has little momentum. I know very little about how financial markets work but that didn’t prevent me from thoroughly enjoying the first film. This time however, the chatter about credit default swaps, sub-prime mortgages and trillions of dollars made my eyes glaze over.
Still, there is some fun to be had. Guest appearances include Stone himself, Charlie Sheen who played Gekko’s nemesis in the original and Graydon Cartor, the editor of Vanity Fair magazine. But the best thing in Money Never Sleeps is Michael Douglas, with a creased forehead and sad eyes, but still nasty enough to devour those he loves the most.
Gordon Gekko stands taller than the film. Check him out…