In Oliver Stone’s new film, WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS
, everyone has a secret. It’s a tale of twists and turns, revenge and redemption, and it will make you pay attention. Set during the market free-fall of 2008, it follows the story of young, hot-shot, Wall Street trader Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) and his girlfriend Winnie (Carey Mulligan), who just happens to be the daughter of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), whom you will recognize if you are familiar with the original film WALL STREET
In his current incarnation, Gekko is just getting out of federal prison after serving time for insider trading and securities fraud. He writes a book and re-invents himself on the speaker circuit. Michael Douglas is as compelling as ever in the role he originated, leaving the audience wondering whether or not he’s truly reformed. He’s now regarded as sort of a Wall Street elder statesman, but he’s really just changed his style of shameless self-promotion. It’s as easy as ever to fall under his spell. His daughter Winnie wants nothing to do with him. In fact, she works for a liberal, watch-dog, non-profit web site. Jake goes to one of Gordon’s lectures, on the sly, and is mesmerized by the charismatic Gekko. He introduces himself as Winnie’s fiancé, and more secret meetings follow. Jake has an agenda. He’s out for revenge for the death of his mentor and father-figure, Louis Zabel, artfully portrayed by Frank Langella. Gordon has an agenda of his own involving revenge. He wants to “get” the man he thinks is responsible for his prison sentence, billionaire trader Bretton James, slickly played by James Brolin. Jake becomes more and more enmeshed in this web of lies and betrayal, risking the happiness he has found with Winnie.
It helps to have seen the first WALL STREET, but it’s not necessary to enjoy this film. In fact, I spoke to several young people who had not seen the original film but liked this one, so it definitely stands on its own. However, they did not understand the hilarious cameo by Charlie Sheen, reprising his role as Bud Fox from the original film. There are a number of brief turns by veteran actors that deserve mention. Susan Sarandon is wonderful as Jake’s blowsy mother, and Eli Wallach at 90 years old can do more with one whistle than most actors could do with a soliloquy. Austin Pendleton is appropriately spacey as a scientist whose funding depends on Jake’s ability. Sylvia Miles, reprising her role as a Manhattan realtor, uses her 15 seconds of screen time to convey an entire character with one withering glance.
But this film belongs to Douglas, LaBeouf, and Mulligan. Many people may go see the film because of Michael Douglas’s current struggle with throat cancer, but they’ll be rewarded with a tour-de-force performance. LaBeouf’s surprisingly mature portrayal of Jake is the glue that holds the story line together, and Mulligan is quite appealing as the determined but oftentimes confused daughter/fiancé.
However, Stone is a heavy-handed director, so there’s too much in-your-face symbolism -- falling dominoes? Really? The score’s "message music" is a bit distracting, too.
It would be an excellent film with a little subtlety. Regardless, it’s a good film as it is.
JoAnne Hyde reviews films for BOF
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS opens in theaters everywhere on September 24, 2010.