Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Starring Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf
The original Wall Street is a classic movie. It’s the story of a Wall Street rookie, Bud Fox, who is tempted by guru of greed, Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas), to a life of hedonism and morally bankrupt decisions. As we see the effect that greed has on the young guy, we are also given a warning about the dangers of greed in 80s America. The personal story reflects and informs what is going on in the culture of the time. There’s not two separate plots going on here, just one plot with many layers.
A bit over 20 years later and the world has changed. For one thing, there was this thing called the Global Financial Crisis that shook the world. So here we have Oliver Stone, the director of the original Wall Street film coming back for a sequel. There’s a promise that we’ll find out what happened to Gordon Gecko and we’ll see how the greed of Wall Street power players caused the GFC. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Problem is, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps never delivers on its promises.
Shia LaBeouf plays Jacob, a young guy working for a Wall Street firm. We’re meant to like this guy. He’s portrayed as one of the good guys – “Hey look! He’s investing in alternative energy sources. He must be a good guy.” This is the character that is meant to be our point of view into the world of Wall Street, taking over the position filled by Charlie Sheen in the original. But honestly? LaBeouf just isn’t compelling to watch. I wish I could see what these movie casting agents see in the guy. I’ve yet to see him do anything in a film that grabs my attention. I just don’t care about Jacob. And that’s a problem for the movie. One of many.
Turns out Jacob is dating Gordon Gecko’s daughter. Gecko has done his time in jail and is now an author questioning the morality of corporate greed. Now this could be interesting. This could be an avenue to explore the financial world leading up to the GFC. But no, Gecko is here having his own story line. His story is not about Wall Street but trying to reconcile with his distant daughter. An okay story on its own, but this movie is called Wall Street. Far too much time is spent on this broken relationship.
The relationship plot forces the economic crisis into the background. It becomes almost a separate story. One I struggled to understand. I did a couple of finance classes at TAFE. My knowledge of finance extends to being able to work out compound interest, and even then I struggle. I need help to understand what’s going on in the world of Wall Street. In the original fim, the story of Bud Fox helped communicate what was going on. There’s no such help happening here. Which is not that big a deal, unfortunately, because the GFC happens and then is promptly forgotten about so we can get back to Gecko and his daughter.
This movie is a failure. None of the story lines work and do a poor job and inter-relating. Stone, in one scene, attempts to highlight the greed of these people by zooming in on the jewelry of women at a fancy dinner. This is an example of a forced scene that hits you over the head with the themes of the movie, but then does nothing with them. And to top it off, you have Charlie Sheen making a cameo appearance, where he walks on screen, playing a charactiture of himself, quotes some lines from the original movie, and then walks off screen again. Pure pandering with no point.
I want to be able to reflect of ideas such as greed and reconciliation. But this is a movie that manages to be so superficial in its story telling that there’s not much to work with here. It’s a pot luck collection of leftovers from the 80s, warmed up and served with little effort to make it palatable. Greed is bad, renewable energy is good, and I just don’t care. This could have been a movie that humanised the GFC. But instead its a movie about an old man and his daughter and I just don’t care.
Save yourself the price of a movie ticket. Go rent the original Wall Street on DVD instead.