Theatrical Review: WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS
Writers: Alan Loeb, Stephen Schiff
Director: Oliver Stone
Cast: Michael Douglas, Shia Labeouf, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon, Frank Langella
Studio: 20th Century Fox
In 1987, Oliver Stone released WALL STREET to the world. This movie perfectly captured the excess and money-lust that devoured New York in the 1980's. It told the story of Gordon Gekko’s (Michael Douglas) lavish rise and fall as an investment trader, and his potentially fatal hunt for power through money. Stone’s arguable masterpiece brought mainstream attention to the greed consuming Wall Street and its eventual implosion before the 1990s.
Stone returns to Gekko’s story 23 years after the end of WALL STREET in WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS. The film opens with Gekko’s release from federal prison after having served nine years for insider trading. After gathering his personal affects, including his humorously large mobile phone, Gekko ventures outside the prison gates and is met by no one. His disappointment flashes on his face, while his plans of vengeance on those who put him behind bars bubble just below the surface. Seven years after his release, Gekko has published a memoir, and finds himself face to face with the young and hungry trader Jake Morris (Shia Labeouf), who also happens to be marrying Gekko’s daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Jake cajoles Gekko into meeting with him and the two begin a series of trades, involving everything from pictures of Winnie for Gekko and stock secrets for Jack to use against their mutual enemy Bretton James (Josh Brolin). As the layers unfold, we see Gekko’s thirst for vengeance eat away at him and destroy the people around him.
Set right as the housing market crumbled and during the 2008 government bailout of banks, WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS exposes the competitive and bullish world of stock trading post-deregulation and pre-bubble bursting. Douglas doesn’t have the same joie de vivre he put into Gekko the first time around, however his character still commands every scene - especially during the moments of vulnerability and self-actualization in Gekko’s eyes. Life has moved on without him, but what he doesn’t want anyone to realize is that he is terrified of that. Instead, as a spurned lover might do, he tricks those around him into doing his dirty work.
Always a fan of grandiose scene-building, Stone takes his time revealing the depth of each character’s situation. He surrounds them with beautiful things, lavish parties, and even when he’s down playing environmental activist Winnie she still runs around New York in clothes costing thousands of dollars. He wants to embellish every detail, and his intention to illicit both envy and disgust from the audience is palpable - if not overwhelming. Even while set in the land of greed, the distinction between good and evil is clear. The good are unjustly wronged, but still get their comeuppance, while those who are evil make a splat on the pavement following their fall from grace.
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS is a frightening tale torn straight from the yellowing pages of The New York Times, and Stone never once backs away from airing our own dirty laundry. He does not shy away from putting up a mirror and dissecting the past two years of American financial history, while offering up a painted-up warning for the future.
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