…And what a rant it is. Anyone who has ever seen an Oliver Stone movie knows that this director has a hefty chip on his shoulder in regards to pretty much any government and/or otherwise establishment there is—and that said prejudice plays out brilliantly in his films. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is another such powerhouse treatise whose critical and absolutely relevant comments on the current financial situation of our world are well-place and timed, and are unfortunately undercut only by a perhaps too complicated and expertise-driven plot that will lose many audience members.
The premise itself, however, is simple enough: Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is being released from prison 20-some odd years after being rang up for insider trading. Viewers who saw the original Wall Street (being that film was one of the absolute best of the 1980s, most of us probably have) will be mystified to find that ‘Mr. Greed’ himself has actually reformed his ways… to an extent. Enter Jacob Moore (Shia LeBeouf), a young and idealistic day trader—who just so happens to be engaged to Gekko’s daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan)—whose personal ambitions and dedications to his home firm are both fierce and longsuffering. When Moore’s boyish awe of Gekko causes the younger man to seek out his elder, the dots are quickly connected for another game of financial cat and mouse that, though in no way a carbon copy of the Gekko-Fox entanglement of the first movie, nonetheless quickly evolves into a similar mentor-protégé relationship that isn’t exactly ethical or legal. Also in the mix here is Bretton James (Josh Brolin), the money mogul who was ultimately responsible for Gekko’s incarceration…and who, conveniently enough, can also be at least figuratively blamed for the recent suicide of Jacob’s lifelong mentor.
Mixed up amongst these fictional dealings is the very real storyline of the 2008 financial crisis, and some very poignant and hard-edged mirrors are held up for all us—from wall street to main street—to look into and reflect upon the individual and collective failures that led up to said global event. Even more biting and though provoking is Stone’s on-screen suggestion that there is perhaps nothing that could—or can in the future—be done to prevent such meltdowns; because, at this point in history and as members of the global village in which we all live and do business, the system is more or less self-perpetuating… save for the few powerful and elusive men behind the curtain who pull the right strings at the right time.
As ultra-important as this one’s message is though, the presentation is a bit harder to swallow. The movie clocks in at a very drawn out two hours, and the aforementioned Forbes 500 lingo that saturates the goings on—while no doubt adding the authenticity of the piece—also confuses and bogs down the minds of those who are trying to keep up. Maybe I personally should just go take a business class and inform myself a little better, but this examiner suspects that many other cinema-goers are and will be sharing a similar greenback ingénue. Otherwise, superb camera work and the second-go-around, haven’t I heard that before, score by David Byrne and Brian Eno round out solidly what is an adequately executed re-visitation of the greed that underlies virtually every part of humanity’s material presence; is, however, this greed ‘good’ as Gekko suggests?
Reviewer’s rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars