4 out of 5 Pitchforks Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia LeBeouf, Josh Brolin Rated: PG-13
As hard as it may be to believe, the recession we’re experiencing can be thoroughly entertaining. Just spend $11 you probably don’t have and buy a ticket to Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”
Stone’s re-examination of America’s most hated thoroughfare, which the director first visited in 1987’s “Wall Street,” takes all the atrocious things that have happened to the economy over the past three years and bundles them up in a quasi-simplified, slightly embellished and wholly entertaining story of greed, corruption and love.
The movie opens with Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), the man who so famously stated “greed is good” in the first “Wall Street,” being released from jail. It’s a comical scene contrasting the technology of the ’80s to the tech of today, as the guard returns Gekko’s bulky cellphone. Gekko is released into a world where the technology has changed, but greed has become not only more prevalent, but, according to Gekko, legal.
Not even Gekko’s daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan, sporting the most horrendous haircut ever) is there to give him a ride home from the pen. Instead she’s spending all her time writing for a liberal start-up web-journal and hanging out, in the female version of the Oedipus complex, with her stock-broker boyfriend Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf).
Moore, who told his boss, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella) that he was going to work on Wall Street when he was a youngster, makes himself feel better about his gluttonous occupation by trying to raise money for alternative energy sources. When Keller Zabel Investments, Moore’s employer, goes under amidst rumors of shadowy deals started by rival investor Bretton James (Josh Brolin), Moore’s ideals as well as his job get thrown out the window.
Brolin is fantastic, playing against type as the gorgeous-as-he-is-evil James. When Moore tries to take down his company by going tit-for-tat at the rumor mill, James offers him a job instead of pressing charges.
Moore then runs into Gekko after Gekko gives a speech at Moore’s alma mater. Winnie knows nothing of their meeting.
Gekko, who gives glimpses of humanity every now and then, becomes Moore’s mentor, something that would tear apart Moore’s relationship with Winnie if she were ever the wiser.
What follows is Stone’s reinterpretation of the bank bailouts of 2008, a story that seems all too familiar, and just as complicated, as what so recently happened. For those that lost money during the economic slump that we are still in the story may come a little soon.
LaBeouf proves he’s the guy to go to when you want to revamp a classic franchise, giving his character enough charisma that you want to punch him in the chest and then go in for a hug. You just wish he could see what Winnie knows to be true about her father.
The backbone of the story is a convoluted tale of mathematical geniuses getting away with as much as they possibly can on Wall Street and crawling back for help when their deviant deeds catch up with them.
The appeal of the film is watching how those with emotions that exceed greed handle the egomaniacs surrounding them. The engaging act of observing the humane deal with people possessed by more than just monetary wealth, but by the satisfaction that comes with being successful on Wall Street and making sure others aren’t.
Clearly Stone and his screenwriters Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff are not proponents of what went down in Washington and New York over the past couple of years, and rightfully so. Their examination of what drives people to do such irresponsible things, and how they justify doing so, transcends the moral commentary of the film.
The pace of the film drags at some points, and the 133-minute running time tests your attention span, but as a whole, the captivating characters trump the necessarily complex content of the story, winning you over much like Gekko does Moore, but not letting you down, as Gekko does to everyone.
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