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Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Review


RATING:
(2 STARS)

To be perfectly blunt, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a mess. The frustrating thing is that there’s a good film in there somewhere, but it’s bogged down by a slew of dull subplots, jarring shifts in tone and pace, and an ending that’s a total cheat. I didn’t care for Oliver Stone’s first Wall Street film. His sequel is timely and energetic, and it had the potential to be quite good. But things just don’t come together.

In 2008, Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) is on top of the finance world. He’s got a good job, his boss, Louis (Frank Langella), adores him, and he’s about to propose to his beautiful and adoring girlfriend, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), who is the daughter of former financial giant Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Released from prison in 2001, Gordon has struggled to regain his footing and has been all but abandoned by Winnie, who blames him and his crimes for years of family troubles.

Suddenly, Jake’s world is turned upside-down when his firm goes under and Louis commits suicide. He’s offered a job by Bretton James (Josh Brolin), but his future father-in-law warns him that James is responsible not only for Louis’ suicide, but also for Gekko’s prison stint. So Jake and Gordon enter into an agreement: If Jake helps Gordon win back Winnie’s good graces, Gordon will help Jake take down Bretton.

The plot is as convoluted as any in recent memory, and with the film’s focus changing so often, it’s hard to really dig in and feel connected to the material. I was mildly entertained with Jake and Gordon’s interactions, but the set-up is laborious and exhausting, and the payoff is completely nonexistent. Though the films have little else in common, I was reminded of Kramer vs. Kramer. Both films preach and set you up for something, only to tear it down in favor of a happy ending.

If there’s a saving grace in the film, it’s actually Stone’s direction. The film is nothing if not full of energy, and while that energy leads of some rough patches, I appreciated some of the film’s transitional scenes, like the montage detailing the very beginning of the collapse.

Was it ever possible for Michael Douglas to live up to the hype surrounding this performance? Probably not. He won an Oscar for his portrayal of Gordon Gekko in the first Wall Street, and while there are some circles lauding his work here, I don’t get the fuss. To be honest, I never really got the fuss over his first Gekko performance, but in this film, it feels like he’s just sleepwalking through the part. It doesn’t help that the screenplay has no idea what kind of character it wants him to be. Is Gekko a hero? A villain? Does anyone know?

Shia LaBeouf does his best Shia LaBeouf impersonation. Seriously, does this guy have anything to offer besides the earnest everyman role? Carey Mulligan, coming off her incredible work in An Education, suffers from an underwritten role. Josh Brolin has more to do as the villain here than in True Grit, but Bretton isn’t the most dynamic character. The only bright spot in the cast is Frank Langella, but he’s not around long enough to give the film much of a boost.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps didn’t have to be a totally superfluous project. If there was ever a time for a film like this, it’s now. But what Oliver Stone gives us is a film riddled with a ridiculous number of problems. It’s not unwatchable, but it’s painfully frustrating endeavor.

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