Monday, 13 September 2010


20th Century Fox
Now Showing

Confession: I have not seen Oliver Stone's original 1987 film Wall Street, which spawned the catchphrase 'Greed is Good' and won Michael Douglas, as oily financier Gordon Gekko who coined said line, the Best Actor Oscar. But I'm sure that's not why I didn't enjoy Stone's sequel-of-sorts, Money Never Sleeps, which revisits this money milieu in response to the recent global financial crisis.

I'm aware that part of my disinterest stems from my general disinterest in finance. Not money (I love money, who doesn't?) but the business of money. The stock exchange, Dow Jones, Nikkei et al hold no interest for me and so it was, whenever anyone in this film spoke about matters financial, I reverted to a state similar to Bart's dog in The Simpsons episode where he takes Santa's Little Helper to obedience school: “Blah, blah, blah blah blah blah, blah money”.

But it's not all about the green back and when it is, Stone gives us all manner of visual aids to help the audience out. What is lacking is any sense of real drama which is costly given that the film clocks in at over two hours. The plight of Jake (Shia LaBeouf), a financial whiz kid with an environmental bent – he strongly believes in fusion technology as a future energy source – failed to grab me and that's not because LaBeouf looks all of about 15 years old or that I hold a grudge against him because of his involvement in the Transformer films (honest, I don't).

The company Jake works for goes under and he finds himself working for Bretton James (Josh Brolin), the man who very may very well have caused the company's collapse and, as a consequence, the suicide of Jake's mentor, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella). He wants revenge and his anger is flamed by Gordon Gekko (Douglas reprising his iconic role), newly released from prison and as chance would have it, the estranged father of Jake's girlfriend, Winnie (Carey Mulligan, the recent Oscar nominee sadly given little to do here but cry prettily).

Jake yo-yo's between Gekko and Winnie, who's constantly warning him about how evil her father is. Evil or not, the film perks up whenever Gekko is on screen, gradually morphing into the 1987 version of the man every time he reappears. Greed is apparently still good and Gekko's out for all he can get, no matter who gets hurt.

The film may have had more of an impact had Stone stuck with this line of thinking but he seems intent on providing redemption for Gekko if not the Wall Street community as a whole. That's certainly the nagging suspicion I came away with following the film's 'all's well that ends well' denouement. Perhaps Stone is getting soft in his later years; with age comes a certain level of conservatism. Money Never Sleeps could certainly do with a little more of the younger Stone's fire in the belly and rage against the machine.

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