Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a nasty film safely wrapped in a suit of pink, satin decorative pillows to make it easily digestible for today’s overly-sensitive audiences. It seems indicative of its director Oliver Stone’s career path, from hard-edged, controversially frenetic filmmaker, to the man behind World Trade Center. Even more so it seems reflective of our film-watching culture, of the sort of softness we, as mainstream film consumers, have come to demand from our pictures. Sadly, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps suffers, it’s easy edges entirely drowning out the mean little kernel of a film that lives within.
Review – Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Stone’s film begins with hero, and avatar, of the 1980s Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas, leathery as ever) being released from prison, alone and possibly bereft of the cash he so assuredly collected in the first film. From here we’re given a “seven years later” flashcard and introduced to Jake Moore (Shia LeBouf) a moral young “Wall Street guy” in a serious relationship with Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan, continuing her meteoric rise), Gordon’s estranged daughter. When Moore’s mentor (the always impeccable Frank Langella) throws himself in front of train amidst plummeting stock prices, he must question his moral rectitude and immerse himself in the shadier side of Wall Street, with help of the master himself Gordon Gekko.
It’s an admirable, if not original, premise for a sequel, but it Stone doesn’t have the strength to keep the film in line with its predecessor, which is a hard, mean bit of filmmaking that shows just how destructive the financial world can be. Instead Stone gives us a hint of corruption, of banks and politics gone bad, of billionaires living extravagant lives at the expense of anything, of moral compasses gone awry, but he can’t maintain that evil throughline. Instead he peppers the films with obnoxious in-jokes (the appearance of Charlie Sheen’s Bud Fox is especially irksome) and again, only allows the film the appearance of financial superficiality, instead tying in a love story that in its final moments bottoms out the entire film. Even Douglas’ Gordon Gekko seems a mere gimmick, a mish-mash of catchy one-liners and plot contrivances that robs the character of the credibility he so surely captured in the first film.
In fine sequel fashion, Money Never Sleeps isn’t just about Wall Street, it’s about crumbling banks and the collusion between government and our financial institutions, and using Jake Moore as a guide, Stone gives us an almost behind-the-scenes take on the near collapse of our economy. But as much as he blows whistles and waves flags, Stone can never fully pull the trigger, choosing instead to Swiss-cheese his plot with romance and flashy-editing, decimating his tone and gutting his film in the process. Perhaps Stone (who even makes an appearance in the film) just didn’t have it in him to, amidst all of this economic recession, to make a film without some sort of gooey heart, some sort of satisfying, hope-driven conclusion. Or perhaps Oliver Stone has just gone soft. (via)