The recession, as explained by Oliver Stone What better time than the tail-end of a recession for Oliver Stone to bring his inimitable money-grubber Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) back to the screen? In 1987’s original Wall Street, the trading wizard was our cartoonish symbol for the dark side of that era’s excess. Now, Gekko returns in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps as prophet of and guilt-bearer for our recent economic plunge. The original film left Gekko facing federal charges for insider trading, and the sequel meets up with him as he’s being released from prison. Skip ahead several years, and he’s a best-selling author, with a book decrying the sustainability of certain popular Wall Street practices. We also follow Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), an aggressive young trader romantically entangled with Gekko’s estranged daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan). After his mentor’s (Frank Langella) suicide, Jake takes a liking to Gekko and a job with the equally lecherous power player Bretton James (Josh Brolin). Neither the friendship nor the job work out as planned. It’s basically a dramatization of mid-to-late 2008, when the first big banks began to collapse, done in the typical Stone fashion: heavily stylized and on the line between serious and satirical. There’s a love story too, of course. It’s of the tempestuous variety, between Jake and Winnie, and has some effective moments but ultimately tapers to an end that feels too slim and easy. On that note, LaBeouf and Mulligan certainly deserve credit for what works. Their performances here are so good you’ll think you’re watching a much better movie. And we can’t mention acting without Douglas’ perfectly over-the-top Gekko, sporting a quick mouth that seems to only produce catchphrases. Some movies are all talk. Money Never Sleeps is all jargon. And although most of us will only catch and vaguely comprehend little bits of the cryptic bank jabber thrown about, Stone is able to keep things oddly relatable and engaging, perhaps just out of force of habit (he’s been making these things for a while now, after all). As long as you don’t worry about following all the details, you’ll do fine. Stone’s delight in brining back Gekko seems to trump any anger he might have about the recession, which is unfortunate because what this movie needs most of all is a set of teeth. Ultimately, Money Never Sleeps is fun, occasionally fascinating and far from great, exactly like its predecessor. How many sequels accomplish that much? , GRADE: C+


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