Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Movie Review by Stella Sookun
Movie: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Duration: 131 mins
“Money’s the bitch that never sleeps and she’s jealous…”
Twenty three years ago, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street was released just after the world was left reeling from the shock of an economic crisis defined by Black Monday. October 19 1987 remains a financial missile that caused the global stock markets to suffer one of the largest one-day percentage declines in history.
For the uninitiated, the original Wall Street was set in the New York stock market of the 1980s and followed Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas) a renowned market player who didn’t always do things by the book and then some. Wall Street introduced audiences to a secret world that was largely alien to the average Joe – a world inside the gold and ivory towers of some of the world’s most power financial institutions, but more importantly the few people behind these institutions’ existence.
Fast forward to the present and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps comes to a world now brutally aware of the words “economic crisis”. Douglas reprises his formidable Oscar-winning role as the king of financial sharks that surmised the excess of the 80s in the three words that became the original film’s slogan, “Greed is good”.
It is now 2008 and the sequel begins with the prison release of Gecko, who is now an ex-con with next to no money (at least compared to his previous life). Gecko hits the financial news again with the release of his book, aptly named Is Greed Good?... The film’s focus is now on Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf) a thrusting young trader at a bank (suspiciously similar to Bear Stearns) except this time Jacob’s specialty is renewable energy deals.
Jacob is living in a million-dollar apartment (small fry for his peers) with his girlfriend Winnie Gecko (Carrie Mulligan). Winnie is a left-wing editor of a news website and the highly estranged daughter of Gordon Gecko. Jacob’s seemingly perfect life suddenly tailspins when his bank crashes and is aggressively bought out by Churchill Schartwz (a JP Morgan lookalike) for next to nothing. This hostile move brings Jacob’s mentor down with it, leaving him working for Churchill Schartwz without choice or leadership and the young trader is looking for revenge.
Like some rogue dark knight, Gecko is there to help Jacob see the “real picture” but only in exchange for access to his only daughter. Although compromised emotionally, Jacob uses Gecko’s financial speculations and goes into battle with the bank’s head honcho Bretton James (Josh Brolin) and a series of cat-and-mouse twists and turns results.
Without doubt there is a lot of love for this movie to be as good as the first, and you can feel the audience’s anticipation every time Douglas comes on screen. He still commands an exacting presence and you’re almost willing Gecko to take down the players that initially put him in jail despite his own skullduggery.
In what sadly may yet be Douglas’ last role (he has stage four throat cancer), he does not disappoint in the slightest and Stone’s attempt to present complex economic concepts without sounding preachy is noble but slightly defeatist in the timeframe. These concepts come at you quickly, somewhat distractingly intercut with New York sky lines, split screens and news bulletins (a homage to the first movie), which is a shame as it is often between these scenes and conversations where the film really picks up the most pace and interest.
All in all it’s unlikely you’ll be able to digest all of the intricacies at first watch. You may also need a crib sheet to explain most of the terminology, but despite this the power plays between Jacob and his colleagues and then Jacob and Bretton (not to mention Gecko) are excellent and unapologetic in their revelation of the arrogance and staggering greed that precedes the continuing lust for placing higher and higher bets on speculated returns.