Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Michael Douglas makes a triumphant return to the role that won him an Oscar, but Oliver Stone proves with this sequel to 1987’s Wall Street that he has completely lost it as a filmmaker with his blend of pseudo documentary stylings and some of the most ridiculous montages I’ve ever seen.  Only the opening titles represent anything of a throwback.  The rest is all fast-talking financial jargon and an exhausting sense of self-importance.

Shia Labeouf is the clear lead and has a decisive edge in screen time over the top-billed Douglas returning as Gordon “greed is good” Gekko, playing the boyfriend of the jailed former Wall Street tycoon’s estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan).  The plot picks up in 2008, with the country on the cusp of an economic downturn and Labeouf’s mentor (Frank Langella) getting screwed over by a cutthroat rival (Josh Brolin).

Many more screw-overs follow, so many that if I tried to explain them all, it would take longer to read this review than to simply go see the movie.  Whereas the original was a rather simple narrative brought to life by its entertaining and memorable characters, the sequel is far too heavily plotted in its twisty tale of revenge and retribution.

At 24, LaBeouf is two years older than Charlie Sheen (who appears here in a cameo) was in the original Wall Street, yet I still have a hard time taking him seriously as a hotshot investor-type.  I still feel like he should be walking the halls of a high school, running away from the bullies from the football team who are trying to stuff him into a locker.

He seems to have subscribed to the Tom Cruise school of career building.  This role is straight out of the ’80s Cruise cannon and isn’t much different from something like The Color of Money, but the Labeouf is definitely growing as a performer.  This is the first time I’ve really enjoyed him, and his rapport with his extraordinarily talented real-life girlfriend Carey Mulligan is understandably strong.

I was quite engaged in a particularly resonant subplot involving Labeouf’s mother, a struggling real estate agent played by Susan Sarandon, but it was severely underdeveloped.  It’s amazing that a story where people seem to talk this fast still takes 130 minutes to tell.  The ending seems a bit conventional for a filmmaker once considered to be as edgy as Stone, but it’s the haphazard way of bringing it together that is the real downer.

The film might be worth seeing if you’re someone who goes to the movies for the performances, but it’s hard not to be frustrated that they were wasted on a film that otherwise feels so half-assed.

Rating: 5/10

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