Though I'm personally quite pleased to see Michael Douglas reprise one of his most iconic roles as the Wall Street tyrant, Gordon Gekko, one suspects if it hadn't of been for the economic meltdown of 2008, 20th Century Fox probably would've resigned the initial drafts of this sequel to the bin upon first glance.
The opening scene of Money Never Sleeps - set in 2001 - gives us faint insight into what happened to Gekko following the events of the first movie, as he is finally released from prison after an eight year sentence for insider trading and securities fraud. Seven years later, the market is in meltdown as a slightly wiser and battle worn Gekko revels in foretelling all the events which were to transpire from a book he had wrote in prison.
The story unfortunately loses itself when the focus shifts from Michael Douglas' eccentric nature to young professional couple, Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan. LeBeouf's character roughly mimics Charlie Sheen's from the original film, a young and cocky hotshot trying to make his name on Wall Street. Unfortunately, unlike Sheen, LeBeouf comes across slightly confused in his intentions. He tries to gain some kind of sympathy for investing all his time and effort into this admirable fusion energy research but ultimately he's like every other blood sucking Wall Street schmuck out there just trying to make a couple of quid.
Carey Mulligan's character was a much more interesting proposition - and not surprisingly the stronger of the two younger leads. Playing the estranged daughter of Gekko, she gave us insight into the man off Wall Street and how his criminal dealings affected his own family. But once again some of her actions came off slightly cumbersome, as even Gekko himself poised the question of why his own daughter, who hated him so much, would date a guy who wanted to be exactly like him. However in the short-lived moments where Gekko and Mulligan actually share some screen-time, we get some genuinely heart-felt moments in a film more or less bereft of it.
The classy supporting turns from a devious Josh Brolin and the melancholic Frank Langella added as degree of substance to yet another of Oliver Stone's contrived narratives - which isn't quite Alexander or World Trade Centre 'bad' but fails to hit the glorious heights of his career from the late 80s through to the mid 90s. It's also a shame that one of the very few moments which made me genuinely smile was the cameo of Charlie Sheen's Bud Fox, who also gives an insight into what happened to him following the events of the first film.
Despite the absolutely glorious panoramic shots of the New York skyline, the film became bogged down by these utterly needless and simply quite shoddy CG graphics explaining the science of LeBeouf's fusion investment as well as those number crunching interludes you would expect to find on the Bloomberg financial channel.
As soon as we still start to believe Gekko is a reformed man, becoming something of an anti-hero, the film's slightly prolonged closing moments reveal him to still be the same man who believes 'Greed is Good'. Summed up by the simple line "Gordon Gekko is back". Just a shame it took almost two hours for him to come back...
It was admirable for Oliver Stone to produce this socially relevant sequel - the first sequel ever in his career. However, the cynic in me believes Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was ill-conceived, simply cashing in on the current crisis as oppose to Stone's willingness to tell a brilliant story of the times. All we learn from the film is that greed is still good. Greed is back. However, has greed ever really been away? And did we really need to be reminded?
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Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is in cinemas nationwide now.