Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Reviews
Oliver Stone had a really tight little screenplay going until the last 15 or 20 minutes where the theme seems to switch from Wall Street and all the arrogance and greed, to the betrayal and supposed redemption of Gordon Gekko.
The camera work throughout is excellent, and you really get the feeling of power during all the boardroom scenes. Also, the ending collage that plays during the final credits is a work of art in itself. The acting for the most part is top shelf, especially from Josh Brolin as the main bad guy, and Shia LeBeouf, who surprised me in the main role. Of course Michael Douglas is Da Man as Gekko, delivering his lines with such smoothness, yet hinting at something deeper behind the lines. In an almost cameo, there is a wonderfully done bit by Susan Surandon as LeBeouf's mom.
Carey Mulligan, as the female lead has the thankless task of being the whining, not very interesting daughter of Gekko, who utters some very unfortunate lines, especially when assessing blame for her brother's drug addiction and eventual death.
I loved the first half of this film, as the collapse of one of the investment firm totally mirrored the whole Lehman Bros. mess... it was like watching that part of Too Big To Fail all over again, only this time the guy playing the head of, ahem, Lehman Bros. comes off much more sympathetic instead of the totally arrogant prick he was portrayed as in TBTF. There is a nice feel to the film and perhaps it is Stone's message, that everything is for sale, and that the art of the deal is more important than the deal itself. I forget who says it, but to paraphrase, it ain't about the money, it's about the juice that the deal makes you feel.
In conclusion, the film, coming before TBTF, is a nice expose into what went down in 2008, and could have been a classic like All The President's Men a generation before, but the misstep of those last scenes seemed to come from a different film entirely, as if the studio execs forced Stone to write in a happy ending. In fact the entire relationship between Mulligan and not only her father, but LeBeouf as well, seemed just a bit too pat, allowing Stone to get on his soapbox about the effects of unbridled greed. Frankly, the story would have been better served without the interplay of those relationships.
This film really feels like it wants to preach and be as relevant and meaningful as the first film. While it does do a good job at commenting on the issues and being relevant for its time, it's not wuite the film it could be. I agree with Roger Ebert. This needed to be a lot angrier and bitter. Instead of being a savage indictment of the recent economic world it goes more for the human drama route.
I do like that Gordon and the world have changed, because I think it is necessary, espeically for the character. Some of the old Gordon does return, but in a way more fitting to the times. Douglas is great, and returns to his Oscar winnning role with ease. He brigns the qualtities that made that character iconic, but does it in a way that brings more depth and humanity. LaBeouf somewhat redeems himself after the back to back pannings of two other sequels he's been apart of in the last few years, and he does a good job at having to go toe to toe with such heavy hitters. Mulligan manages to be more than just an occupier of space, which is a good thing, but I think they could have done more with the character, or given her just a bit more oomph. The rest of the cast are also quite nice. Brolin is good at playing a modern Gordon, and Sarandon has fun with an accent, but for me, I really enjoyed Langella and Wallach the best. Neither has extensive screentime, but each play some vital roles, and do their jobs quite well.
Perhaps like Gordon, Stone has gotten softer with age. This is not a bad film, but it could have had a better stroy and script. Maybe Stone should have done the writing. Also, as I mentioned earlier, their could have been a lot more anger and bitterness. The family stuff is fine, maybe a bit too Hollywood, but the opportunity to make another iconic film just wasn't realized. Give this one a chance. Despite its flaws (including being a tad too long and draggy), this is smart and entertaining filmmaking with a good message.
Within the context of the plot, I was never sure why Winnie Gekko was even with Moore in the first place. Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan don't exactly light up the screen with chemistry, and considering Winnie's ire toward the money-centric Wall Street life, it seems like a strained courtship to say the least. But the film continues, unimpeded by the fact that the most central relationship remains undeveloped and unclear. And what does it continue to? Moore treating his fiancee like a commodity to be dealt. This is uncharacteristically bad character development in an Oliver Stone film.
Also, the film's thesis basically posits that the markets' boom and bust cycles will inevitably continue, and in the most ludicrous voice over ever, Moore states that human evolution is the result of a boom and bust. But the idea that our economy will continue to falsely swell before collapsing under its own weight isn't just pessimistic; it's fatalistic. Whereas the original Wall Street implicitly criticized Gekko and his "Greed is good" mantra, this film seems to say, "Greed isn't just good; it's essential." It doesn't critique the lesser of our natures; it celebrates them.
Overall, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps may provide a theme that a critic can sink his/her teeth into, but it ultimately tastes quite sour.
It's more than a decade since the events of the first movie, and notorious Wall Street kingpin Gordon Gekko is out of jail, broke, and apparently reformed. He even seems to be the voice of reason and sanity, amidst a sea of greed that dwarfs even his own. He comes back into the lives of his estranged daughter and her young, idealistic investor boyfriend, but does a man like him deserve a second chance?
I actually preferred Money Never Sleeps to the original Wall Street. There was less financial jargon and dense investor speak being thrown around, the main characters were easier to identify with, and the plot that was at least partially focused on human drama that I could relate too, instead of only numbers, stock quotes, and indices. Both movies are clearly products of their times, as well, and Money Never Sleeps deals with things and events that I'm familiar with in a way that the original (which came out when I was only two years old) does not.
Not to say the sequel is perfect, though. Or anywhere close to it. It tends to be overly sentimental, at times (especially the ending). We're talking soap opera levels of cheesiness. And Stone uses it as a vehicle to push his point of view across with all the subtlety of a hammer to the kneecap. This is Stone, though, so that's basically expected. My biggest criticism is how little depth there are to the characters. None of them are really anything more than a collection of one or two broad qualities (naive, earnest, amoral, caring, deceitful, vengeful, greedy, etc.), which is a real shame when you have truly talented actors involved like Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, and Frank Langella. They do a good job with what they're given, but it's not a lot.
It wouldn't surprise me at all if a lot of people favored the first movie over this one, as they are quite different in tone. But, if Wall Street left you a bit cold, as it did me, then maybe the sequel will be more to your liking. If you loved the first...well, your impression may not be as favorable as mine was.
All of Olivier Stone's movies always make me feel like Stone wants to go wild and try new things, but there, even if we sense he knows what he's talking about, the images show us he's trying too damn hard.
Remains very nice to see Michael Douglas in his iconic role, plus Shia Labeouf who is an excellent and promising actor. Carey Mulligan, you are so cute, and Eli Wallach, you are one ugly legend.