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>> Monday, October 11, 2010

Blue Horseshoe likes Money Never Sleeps, but doesn’t love it.

I’ll admit it right off the bat. I’d never seen Wall Street until a week or so prior to seeing it’s follow up. Of course, like most, I knew of the 1987 original that earned Michael Douglas his first acting Oscar for his portrayal of the now infamous Gordon Gecko. ‘Greed is good’ Gecko used to say, with such certainty you could have sworn it was one of the Ten Commandments. Now, twenty some years later, it seems he may have been wrong – and more poignantly, realizes it.

Turns out Gecko’s former protégé, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen of Wall Street), wasn’t the only one to back stab Gecko, landing him in the slammer. No, there were others. As more and more evidence turned up, Gecko soon found himself in jail until he was eventually released – years later. That’s where this movie begins – or sort of begins. Come to think of it, I’m not sure this movie really does begin as much as it sort of just starts existing. I digress. During his hiatus, Gecko manages to scribble out a book titled ‘Is Greed Good?’. Seems the nice man has learnt his lesson. Or did he? Gecko’s book is (in a fat nutshell) about the many trends Americans have adopted through a few generations that will lead to their downfall and ultimate demise. The trend – overspending; the downfall – the recession.

In Wall Street Gecko takes Bud Fox under his wing to teach him the ropes and show him the high life. Fox is undoubtedly glamoured by Gecko’s presence and thus follows suit until he comes face to face with the one thing Gecko left behind a long time ago – moral fibre. Gecko seems to always need someone to look up to him, and in Money Never Sleeps he sinks his talons into future son-in-law, Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf). Jake is a nice kid who works on Wall Street and has always admired the legend that is Gecko. No doubt when he found out he was dating the daughter of the man he’s always admired, Jake hoped the two would cross paths one day.

After a lecture given by Mr. Greed himself, Jake takes the opportunity to introduce himself – against the wishes of his wife-to-be, Winnie Gecko (Carey Mulligan). The look on Jake’s face says “I know I should be cautious, but Gecko seems nice enough so I’ll stay around a little longer”. The two soon form a secret bond and it’s not long before Gecko seems to be back to his old ways the second some money enters the picture. Unsurprisingly, Winnie’s not allured by the power of money - Jake on the other hand just lost a third of his $1.5 million bonus due to the unpredictable recession. What a predicament - listen to the women who hates the man you admire and realize money does not mean happiness, or take advice from a man who has made a living out of making money even though the love of your life hates him with everything she has. What you have here folks, is the classic love vs career debate – a tussle that rarely finds a balanced medium.

That said, Money Never Sleeps seems to be missing something - more than that it seems to be unaware of whom the movie belongs to. One will argue that it’s Jake’s movie – Wall Street or wedding day? Other’s will say it’s Gecko’s film – money or mediocrity? Wall Street belonged to Gecko, hands down. Here it seems director Oliver Stone tried to breathe life into an old idea when all we get is another Basic Instinct 2 (2006) – it seems Michael Douglas will never get classic standalone movie without it being tainted by an unholier-than-thou sequel. Stone should have left Wall Street exist as it was – an iconic 80’s money movie, but he seems to always bring politics and economy and the American spirit into everything he does now (exhibit A: World Trade Center [2006]).

Still, I am giving Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps an open door. Despite its flaccid connection to the original hit, by itself, it wasn’t half bad and relatively watchable. LaBeouf finally shows off some nice acting chops and despite his limited range he fits in well here. Douglas is… well Douglas - great actor, nearly (if not already) past his prime though. There is a scene where Gecko and Winnie reconnect and it seems as if Gecko has finally been broken down and the harshness of prison and the disconnected family life he’s lead has finally gotten the best of him. Unfortunately, this is only a glimpse into what this movie could have been. I feel it may have been more interesting to see a film about a broken down Gecko struggling to find a new identity and a new path. Picture Wall Street mixed with About Schmidt (2002) – that’s the movie I wanted to see. Money Never Sleeps takes the easy way out and goes with, unfortunately, a slightly happier ending. If Douglas was hoping his reprise would earn him another Oscar, I’m sad to say he’s dead wrong.

*Stills courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox


Editing Luke October 13, 2010 at 4:43 PM  

Good review. I was pretty sure this one wouldn't live up to the first. It's kind of like destroying the allure of the 80's movie to say that oh, we got it wrong. When in fact, the original Wall Street is very telling of the mentality that was corporate American in the eighties. The second is trying to reflect the recession somewhat haphazardly - if not just trying to capitalize on it.

It seems like Oliver Stone is trying to be overly current. World Trade Center, W., now this. The films seem to lack perspective as not enough time has passed to say how things will really pan out - specifically with W.

Angry Charlie October 14, 2010 at 10:21 PM  

Thanks Luke! I agree with your opinion of W. as well. I actually forgot about that one until you mentioned it - or else i prolly would have included it in my review. I also agree with the fact Stone seems to want to be the first to make all these movies, rather than give it time to grow and see how it holds up over the ages. Documentaries are for the now, docudramas are for the later. I site Frost/Nixon as an example.

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