REVIEW: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps -- But You Just Might

Movieline Score: 5

wallstreet _rev_2.jpgWall Street! The place where money never sleeps. Where greed is still good. Where the rich get rich and the poor get poorer. Where a penny saved is a penny earned. Where the men are men and the women are women. Where the wild things are. Where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain. If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere.

Oliver Stone may not have written Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, but the movie has his pawmarks all over it: He never met a cliché he didn't like, and this allegedly topical sequel to his silly but enormously successful 1987 meditation on greed and, well, greed is stuffed with them, starting with the characters. There's the young, cool-headed financial-whiz hotshot (Shia LaBeouf) who started out at the bottom, as a golf caddy, and is now crawling his way toward the top; the older mentor who's guided him (Frank Langella) but who has reached the sad realization that he's become a dinosaur, steeped in the old (read: "principled") ways of doing things; the bright, idealistic young woman (Carey Mulligan) who has estranged herself from her slick, wheeler-dealer, insider-trading dad (Michael Douglas, once again slithering into the silky reptile skin of Gordon Gekko and finding that, perhaps let out an inch or two in the waistline area, it still fits just fine). Every character in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps -- which is set right before the 2008 crash -- has a serious role to play in this most serious of dramas, which says some very important and dire things about the troubled times we live in.

Or so Stone seems to think. Even though he attempts some emotional delicacy -- most notably in his use of the tender little songs David Byrne and Brian Eno have provided for the soundtrack -- almost everything about Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is still overthought and oversized. There's lots of talk and very little true wisdom which, come to think of it, is also a defining characteristic of the overinflated bubble world the movie is so desperately trying to puncture. Incidentally, there are lots of bubbles in Money Never Sleeps, both literal and figurative ones -- they're a vague yet heavy-handed motif denoting fragility, opportunity and freedom. But the picture itself is leaden and unwieldy, a project marked by grand ambition but not, unfortunately, the use of actual brain cells. In its empty-headed hubris, it's not much more admirable than the conniving, moneygrubbing elite it's trying to take down.

The picture -- cowritten by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff -- opens with everybody's favorite '80s corporate raider Gordon Gekko, being released from jail after serving a nearly eight-year sentence: The personal belongings he collect on his way out the door include a watch, a moneyless gold money clip and a cell phone the size of a small shoebox. Has Gekko been changed by his time in jail? You bet. Or maybe not. In any event, he spends the next several years writing books and just coasting on being an all-around legend.

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  • The Winchester says:

    Sounds like Wallach is the Lundgren of this picture. Now I have to rent it.

  • Ndege says:

    Isn't this the same reviewer who reviewed Inception?

  • James says:

    I love that you referenced the Wienie King from "The Palm Beach Story" -- wonderful! And I completely agree with your assessment of the film, too. The first one had a kind of behind-the-scenes, down-in-the-trenches immediacy to it. But this one reduces Gekko to a supporting player and gives us heaping helpings of LaBeouf. That's like going to a steakhouse where they bring you a little cube of beef every 20 minutes while trying to drown you in breadsticks.

  • Trace says:

    Yeah. Kinda like how most critics who reviewed Ineption reviewed this movie. Isn't that, like, so weird?!!

  • Abram Cofone says:

    A magnum opus is something said once and for all, stated, finished, so that it's there complete in the mind, if only at the back.