Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Preachy, garish and perfunctory, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” Oliver Stone’s eagerly awaited sequel to the original film, is an artistic disappointment on any number of levels.

World-premiering at the Cannes Film Fest (out of competition) back in May, the film is released by Fox Sep 24.  It likely will divide sharply critics.
 
A decidedly mixed bag, “Money Never Sleeps” contains two stories, one professional, the other personal and familial, which run parallel to each other but never connect in a meaningful or logical or emotional way.
 
 
Structurally, “Money Never Sleeps” is a mess, and Stone’s fast pacing and all kinds of visual devices can’t conceal the fraudulent nature of the narrative. Indeed, deep down, despite a layer of cynicism, the film is both sentimental and contrived, indicating that Stone is no longer an angry ma, driven by demons but a preachy agit-prop director.
 
The first picture became famous for Michael Douglas’ Oscar-winning performance, a wickedly masterful portrayal of the villainous character, the ruthless corporate raider Gordon Gekko, which became part of our pop culture and collective consciousness. (“Greed Is Good”). 
 
“Wall Street” featured Charlie Sheen as a stockbroker hungry for success, a role now played by Shia LaBeouf (better known for the blockbuster franchise “Transformers”), as Jake Moore, a smart young proprietary trader. 
 
Set largely in 2008, “Money Never Sleeps” finds Gekko alone, an outsider who has served 8 years in prison for securities fraud, money laundering and racketeering. 
 
Gekko and Jake meet when the former attends a lecture at FordhamUniversity given by Gekko, who is promoting his new book, “Is Greed Good?” Gekko speech describes how “Greed Is no Longer Good; It’s Legal,” and how a malignancy in the financial system, with its rampant speculation and leveraged debt, is bound to doom the U.S. economy.
 
Further complications ensue, when Gekko finds out that Jake is in love with and about to marry his estranged daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan, Oscar-nominated for “An Education”), who has not talked to him since he went to jail, accusing him of the death of her brother (of drug overdose due to parental neglect).  
 
For Stone, returning to the world he captured in “Wall Street” was not only timely, but an opportunity to explore something new: “I don’t think I would have enjoyed working on ‘Money Never Sleeps’ if it hadn’ been a wholly original story (the screenplay is credited to Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff). Twenty-three years later makes a huge difference. It was very fresh to me.”
 
The movie depicts the exponentially-growing accumulation of wealth, which kept going into the 1990s and 2000s, how the numbers grew and grew, so the millions of dollars became billions of dollars, and the greed of Gordon Gekko was swamped by the greed of the banks.
 
However, what unfolds on screen is simplistic, and most of the domestic scenes are downright schmaltzy. In most of her interactions, whether interacting with erring dad Gekko or lover-fiancé Jake, Carey Mulligan is teary; her eyes are always red. For his part, LaBeouf does his own share of crying, and Michael Douglas, too.
 
The ending is facile, sentimental, and fake, depicting a series of reconciliations, and almost negating the harsher, more cynical events that precede it. All of a sudden, rich, greedy characters redeem themselves for their family’s sake and other altruistic reasons, and middle-age women, such as Jake’s mother (Susan Sarandon), become idealistic again.