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Review – Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Click poster for more info.

Click poster for more info.

With Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Susan Sarandon. Directed by Oliver Stone. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and thematic elements. 133 minutes.

WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS, the long-awaited sequel to Oliver Stone’s 1987 hit “Wall Street,” is another of the year’s disappointments. Lengthy, talky and starving for character development, the film plays more like a series of editorials on our recent economic problems than a story about people. It has its moments, which this review will try not to spoil, but they don’t make up for the lack of drama.

Twenty-odd years have gone by since the last film, and we learn that one time financial hotshot Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas) has been finishing up a prison term for insider trading. Both time and money have passed him by, and he makes his way into a world that has made greed more of a watchword than he ever dreamed of by writing a book and going on the lecture circuit.

Meanwhile, Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) is a young Wall Street hotshot, but he’s got a conscience and actually wants his investments to help people while still making him rich. His girlfriend, improbably, is Gecko’s estranged daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan). She’s attracted to him because the plot requires it.

Jake is mentored by one of the few good guys on Wall Street (Frank Langella) who is soon destroyed by one of the new generation of monsters, Bretton James (Josh Brolin). How thin are these characters? When Jake exacts his revenge on Bretton, the latter is so impressed he offers Jake a job.

One could go on trying to describe the plot points, which includes Jake’s mother (Susan Sarandon) trying to stay atop the real estate bubble, the Treasury Secretary (James Bedford Lloyd) trying to stave off a stock market crash, and veteran character actor Eli Wallach reduced to playing Yoda, as an old hand given to pithy pronouncements. Bonus points if you can figure out what he’s doing there and what he’s trying to say.

Even if you agree with Stone’s viewpoint about who is to blame for our current economic straits, you’d be better off watching Michael Moore’s docutribe “Capitalism: A Love Story,” where the people are real and not playing out manufactured melodrama. The problem here is that the characters are simply talking points so it’s hard to get worked up about what happens to them. If this one dies and that one gets arrested and another one has to get a real job, they’re simply markers on a game board.

Gordon and Jake come closest to having some dimension, and the question we have is whether the former has learned anything since the ’80s and whether the later will become corrupted by the Las Vegas attitude Wall Street has for gambling with other people’s money. Not to give anything away, but there are few surprises in store.

Of course Michael Douglas has been in the news of late because of his battle with cancer, and one can only wish him a full and speedy recovery. It would be a mistake, though, to see “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” out of some mistaken notion of sympathy. Instead, check out his overlooked “A Solitary Man” in which he plays a similar character – a guy who got too greedy and pays the price – for a truly memorable performance.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.

Save the $10.00 and 2+ hours by watching the video below, “The Crisis Of Credit,” and learning more than Mr. Stone’s run-on cartoon has to offer:

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About Daniel M. Kimmel

Film critic, author, lecturer.

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