Oh man, I’d hate to have been on the trading floor during the recent financial collapse because if there’s anything scarier than a frustrated trader, it’s a frustrated trader who just lost a shitload of money. I can see it now — hundreds of irritated investors, pitch-forks in hand, burning down anything that they don’t like . . . wait, I’m thinking of the French Revolution. But in all seriousness, the economic turmoil of this generation has ruined a lot of lives and this is evident by the increasingly common foreclosure signs, the high unemployment rate, etc. It comes as no surprise that there are people who want to profit during this testing time and after watching Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps it is apparent Oliver Stone happens to be one of those people.
In his long-awaited follow-up to Wall Street, Stone hires Shia LaBeouf, who himself has become quite the commodity in Hollywood, as Jack Moore, a young trader who teams up with disgraced Wall Street giant Gordon Gekko (who is once again played by the excellent Michael Douglass). Instead of trying to scheme billions of dollars out of grandmother’s hands, however, they team up to uncover who is responsible for pushing Moore’s mentor Louis Zabel (Frank Langella) to his breaking point and untimely death.
In the words of Gekko, a.k.a “Mr. Insider,” “Money is a bitch that never sleeps.” Perhaps this is why Stone has sold-out as a director. Continuing his trend of mediocrity, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is literally a bunch of over-the-top bullshit that has been pre-processed for the mainstream American audience member, who admittedly, is too stupid to understand anything deeper than a wide scale corporate conspiracy. That being said, this latest Wall Street is less fact-based drama and more thriller which impacts the film’s potential relevancy. On top of that, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, though decently entertaining, is overlong (two hour running time) and simply lacking.
The new kid on the block is of course, LaBeouf, who many may know from the Transformers movies in which he plays the same wooden character for two hours straight. This isn’t quite a problem in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, however, LaBeouf is terribly miscast — it’s absolutely impossible to picture him as a trader of any kind. He’s too young and his almost pre-pubescent voice detracts from the overall believability of Moore’s character.
There is also too much of Moore and not enough of Gekko, which the trailers make out to be the focus of the film. Though we first see Gekko during the film’s first scene as he leaves the prison where he was locked up for seven years for insider trading, the character is really introduced about thirty minutes later during one of his seminars, which Moore happens to be attending. Offering a pessimistic view, Gekko has no problem proclaiming that “you are all fucked” when speaking about the economic meltdown.
Douglass returns in form in the role and plays Gekko’s cold and callous brilliance excellently. However, for those expecting another Oscar win for the actor, don’t get your hopes up. Though it’d be interesting to see Douglass win the award for playing the same character to which he won his first Oscar, it’s almost impossible because Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is not as important as Wall Street and quite frankly, Gekko’s character is never really fleshed out. Instead the baton is passed to LaBeouf, who of course, fucks up.
As a contrast to Gekko, there is Mr. Zabel, who unlike Gekko doesn’t flourish in these economic times, and instead they cost him his life. But Louis is also symbolic; he is meant to represent the common man in the financial collapse, which of course, means depression and in rare cases — suicide. It’s also interesting to see Louis try to salvage his pride when he is forced to sell his business for only $3 a share to Josh Brolin’s character Bretton James, who Louis believes is a “vindictive bastard” because once again, it’s what most people would try to do when faced with a situation like this.
Besides from a cameo by Charlie Sheen, who was the star of the original film there really isn’t anything that stand-outs about this latest installment. There is no sense of tension during the scenes where Moore is on the trading floor as stocks crumble when in actuality it should be chaotic. There is absolutely no chemistry between LaBeouf and his on-screen wife, who is played by Carey Mulligan, because Carey’s character, Winnie Gekko (who is Gordon’s daughter) is simply unlikable. The writing, by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff, is also simply passable and Stone seems too infatuated with twenty-second landscape shots and his classic rock soundtrack.
The trailers for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps ask a very philosophical question: Is Greed Good? Personally I don’t know, but I do think it is human and for that reason I find it understandable that Stone tries to milk arguably his best film. However, this second installment is suffering from a case of “factual bankruptcy.”