Thankfully, 23 years after the original, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps falls mostly in the first camp.
Yes, Gordon Gekko is back in business, and does he ever make greed look good.
Before I continue, a little full disclosure: I never saw the original Wall Street. So I saw this new film with fresh eyes and nothing to compare it with or refer back to.
But no matter.
Much of the winks at the earlier film are dispensed in the first minute, as we watch Gordon reclaim his things (including that oversized cell phone) and get out of prison. (There are also some cameos by folks from the first film.)
The rest of the story is a very current look at the 2008 collapse of Wall Street, and how greed did in some “too big to fail” financial institutions. Gordon’s role in all this is just as you’d suspect: He wants revenge on the people who put him in jail and wasted eight years of his life.
Gordon’s foil this time around is Jake Moore, a noble but ambitious financial whiz kid (played by Shia LaBoeuf) who’s engaged to Gordon’s daughter (played by Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan).
Money Never Sleeps is Jake’s movie, mostly, and LaBoeuf does a real good job in the role. He captures Jake’s tenacity and drive, but also his conflict, and holds his own against major players like Frank Langella and Josh Brolin.
Is Money Never Sleeps a classic? No. It’s an enjoyable, compelling film, but it’s got a few hokey lines of dialogue, and at times, director Oliver Stone overdoes it with the symbolism (ahem, the bubbles).
In addition, Susan Sarandon is not very good; her New York accent is downright embarrassing.
Who cares, though, right? Michael Douglas makes this movie worth seeing. He’s in total control here playing his Oscar-winning role again, and he looks like he’s having a ball. A monologue he gives at Fordham early in the film is a highlight. And when Gordon really hits his stride, it’s very cool.
But it’s worth noting that like in the original, Gordon’s more of a supporting character, not the lead. So while there’s plenty of him in the film, but when Gordon’s not on screen, you sit and wait for his return. He’s a guy you love to hate, and don’t hate to love. Between this and Solitary Man, 2010 has been a great year for Douglas performances.
Stone infuses Money Never Sleeps with retro charm without ever making the film seem nostalgic.
That said, at times, it feels like an ’80s movie, with its bulk and weight — kind of like Gordon’s old cell phone (I mean that as a positive).
Do you need to understand all the financial stuff? It might help a little. Do you need to have seen the original? Well, I didn’t and I still enjoyed the movie.
I’m giving Money Never Sleeps a B.