The Aisle Steat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Michael Douglas tries to explain to Shia LaBeouf why greed may not really be good.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps may, in part, be a victim to the very expectations it generates. Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas re-teaming to bring back the Gordon Gekko character in this age of Savings & Loans scandals and bank bailouts should have been a home run. Instead, you sit there waiting for the movie to start getting really interesting, and it never quite does. I love Stone's 1987 original, for which Douglas won the Oscar. While by no means terrible, this sequel simply isn't in the same league.

Shia LaBeouf plays Jacob Moore, a young Wall Street trader who specializes in finding the money to fund green energy projects. Jacob decides to seek revenge against rival Bretton James (Josh Brolin), a sleazebag who started rumors about the company Jacob works for, thereby driving its stock into the ground and leading to the suicide of his mentor, the firm's bigwig (Frank Langella). Fortunately for him, Jacob is engaged to Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan), whose estranged father Gordon (Douglas) is back on the scene after a lengthy prison sentence. He tracks down Gordon, gets some information that might be helpful in hurting Bretton, and works toward reuniting father and daughter in exchange.

There are multiple complications along the way, but I'll just keep it that simple. Many viewers may have trouble following it all anyway, because the film, unlike the original, doesn't do a very good job of making complicated subject matter accessible to the audience.

For me, the basic problem with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is simple: Oliver Stone's rage is missing this time. The original was essentially a diatribe against the avaricious mentality that caused Wall Street types to play dangerous games with other people's money. It was no coincidence that the movie's most famous line was “Greed is good.” Now here we are in a time when people have lost their homes and their savings because of greedy business practices. Instead of angrily railing against those responsible for these recent economic misfortunes, the director seems intent to shrug his shoulders and say “told you so.” I miss the old Oliver Stone, the one who was pissed off and looking for a fight. Why he doesn't have it in him this time is the picture's greatest mystery.

The story's interpersonal stuff works a little better, although Money Never Sleeps tries to humanize Gekko by having him work to be a better man upon his release from prison. I understand the temptation, but does anyone really want to see that from one of cinema's greatest true-to-life villains? You can't fault Douglas, who at least gives the role his best shot. He has some nice scenes with LaBeouf and Mulligan (an Oscar nominee herself for An Education). Some of the character dynamics have a spark that the rest of the movie does not. Winnie resents her father as much for not being there as she does for his illegal activities. Jacob, meanwhile, is drawn to Gordon. He wants the power and the money, without the immorality that got his future father-in-law in trouble.

My interest actually perked up during the character-driven scenes, only to wane again during the scenes depicting financial machinations. The money stuff is too complicated and not presented with anything approaching the indignation many of us feel about Wall Street practices these days. Money Never Sleeps simply takes the wrong track – the soft one – and therefore never comes to life with the force you want it to. Strange as it may seem to say, the 1987 original is more relevant than this supposedly up-to-date sequel.

( 1/2 out of four)

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is rated PG-13 for brief strong language and thematic elements . The running time is 2 hours and 13 minutes.