Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

The old saying “You can’t go home again” is probably the most ignored bit of wisdom in Hollywood as it relates to sequels.  There have been five Superman movies, six Batman films, six episodes of Star Wars, four Resident Evil flicks, three Godfathers and the granddaddy of them all, James Bond, with 22 official films.  Not all sequels are a good idea.  For instance, “Halloween III:  Season of the Witch” couldn’t be considered a shining moment.  If “Book of Shadows:  Blair Witch II” had never been made, I think the world would have continued to spin.  When it was announced there would be a sequel to 1987’s “Wall Street,” many thought it would be great to visit once again with corporate raider Gordon Gekko and see if he had reformed or if the opportunities for an unscrupulous inside trader from the 80’s in today’s rocky financial times would be too much to pass up.  While it’s no “Jason X,” “Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps” may have to go into the “bad idea” column.

Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) has a pretty good life:  He works for a Wall Street investment bank owned and run by his mentor Louis Zabel (Frank Langella) and is living with the beautiful Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan) who is editor of a liberal-leaning news and information website.  Jake’s specific investment emphasis is green energy and he’s working with Dr. Masters (Austin Pendleton) to maintain funding of a fusion energy research facility.  Winnie’s father, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) has been out of jail since 2001 after serving eight years for insider trading and other financial crimes.  Winnie wants nothing to do with Gordon because she blames him for the drug overdose death of her brother Rudy several years earlier while Gordon was in jail.  Another investment banker, Bretton James (Josh Brolin), spreads rumors about the health of Louis Zabel’s business, leading to its collapse.  Zabel, unable to deal with the failure of his business at the hands of James, steps in front of a subway train and commits suicide.  Jake wants to take revenge on James and approaches Gordon hoping to use his knowledge and connections to aid in his mission.  Gordon is willing to help since James was behind some of the information that led to Gekko being sent to prison for more than just insider trading; but Gekko wants Jake’s help in getting back into Winnie’s life.  Has Gordon Gekko changed and is there more to his desire to reconnect with his daughter than meets the eye?

While it has been several years since I saw the original, I’ll have to admit to being a fan of the original “Wall Street.”  Hearing Michael Douglas deliver his famous “Greed is Good” speech reminded me of a kind of laid back preacher delivering his best-rehearsed sermon.  I was hoping for more of the same in this updated tale told against the backdrop of the recent financial collapse; however, this film reminded me more of the economics classes I had in college, filled with terms I didn’t understand and an overwhelming desire to lay my head down on my arms and go to sleep.

To be blunt, the film is dull.  There were moments that piqued my interest; like when Charlie Sheen did his brief cameo or when some of the famous financial channel talking heads had their screen time.  Otherwise, the film has about as much going on as your average made-for-Lifetime movie only the main female character wasn’t beaten or stalked.  The various financial shenanigans that should have given the film some tension and bite fall flat.  Perhaps it’s because most of what the characters talk about, as far as the reasons for the Wall Street meltdown, were way above my head.  Maybe I’m just dumb or woefully uninformed, but all the financial gobbledygook made my head spin and became a distraction as I tried to figure out what people were talking about.  There are also numerous story elements that either occur prior to the beginning of the movie or happen off screen during the film.  Flashbacks or quick montages would have been an easy fix for this and perhaps given the audience some better grasp on the background of the story.  Instead, characters talk these points to death, either in denials or speculation of what happened.  It makes the film feel only half done even with a running time of just over two hours.

While all the lead actors do a great deal of good work, the most interesting characters (Gordon Gekko, Bretton James and Louis Zabel) are given very little screen time.  I would have been much more interested to see these men in their respective offices plotting the course of their businesses and making plans to crush their enemies.  That would have created more excitement and tension as opposed to what we get in the film.  And Gordon Gekko, the character that everyone wants to see, is given the least to do of all the main players.  While his true colors are put on full display near the end of the film it is too little too late.  You can also see him preparing to put on his display from a mile away, killing any emotional impact it might have had.

“Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps” is rated PG-13 for brief strong language and thematic elements.  There’s very little in the film that could be considered offensive by the average moviegoer.  Zabel’s suicide is sad but not graphic.  There are instances of cigar and cigarette smoking.  Foul language is minimal and widely spread.  The F-bomb is dropped once.

Seeing director Oliver Stone’s take on the recent financial meltdown should have been a lot more interesting.  While “Wall Street” used insider trading as a backdrop to build tension and suspense, this sequel takes a global financial catastrophe and manages to make it as dull as dishwater.  Money may never sleep, but the audience may during this film.

“Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps” gets three guitars.

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Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.

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