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Bets Are Hedged with a Kinder, Gentler Gekko in Wall Street Sequel

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2010 9 Sep
  • COMMENTS
Bets Are Hedged with a Kinder, Gentler Gekko in <i>Wall Street</i> Sequel

DVD Release Date:  December 21, 2010
Theatrical Release Date:  September 24, 2010
Rating:  PG-13 (for brief strong language and thematic elements)
Genre:  Drama, Sequel
Run Time:  133 min.
Director:  Oliver Stone
Actors:  Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Eli Wallach, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon

Given our nation's own shaky economic status, an indictment on greed and corruption in the modern business world is downright timely. And when the lesson just happens to include the particularly delicious antics of a top-notch villain like Gordon Gekko, still played with snake-like precision by Michael Douglas who scored an Oscar for the honor in 1987's Wall Street, who couldn't be intrigued by the proposition?

After learning that greed wasn't quite so good after all, the film begins with Gekko's release from prison. After serving an eight-year sentence for insider trading, he's left with nothing more than a check for $1,800, a gaudy, gold Rolex, the only relic from his wealthier days, a money clip with no money and an oversized cell phone that I'm guessing won't allow Gekko to post the requisite "I'm finally out of jail" Facebook status update.

Even more devastating, Gekko is all alone when he finally vacates the premises. While other former inmates have the reassuring hugs of loved ones, not to mention a ride home, Gekko is forced to find his own way back to the city. Coincidentally, that's also a pretty accurate description of the even bigger challenge that lies ahead—being relevant, rich and powerful in a world that's clearly changed. After all, greed just isn't good, but it's apparently legal, something Gekko notes once he hits the book tour circuit.

When you're not exactly welcomed back with open arms into the business world, your next big money-making venture naturally involves writing a book, right? Well, at least the screenwriters have the wherewithal to note it's not exactly the most booming of industries these days either. That minor detail aside, Gekko apparently still has a loyal, standing-room-only following as he preaches the gospel of today's economics, namely that the younger generation shouldn't expect much. "You're the Ninja generation," he says without a trace of sympathy. "No income, no jobs, no assets. You have a lot to look forward to."     

Getting a kick out of Gekko's rather opinionated take on all things market-related is Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf, who does an admirable job, despite the fact he barely looks a day over 18), an ambitious Wall Street newbie with a passion for futuristic green technology and a link to Gekko himself. Engaged to Gekko's estranged daughter Winnie (An Education's Carey Mulligan), a proudly left-leaning blogger for a non-profit (perish the thought!), Jake wastes no time introducing himself.

Sensing an opportunity to reconnect with his daughter, Gekko also doesn't waste time capitalizing on his new connection. Much like Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) from the original Wall Street, it doesn't take long for the earnest young pup to get swept up in Gekko's atmosphere, and only minutes later, Jake has even agreed to persuade his fiancée to have dinner with the man she blames for ruining not only her life, but for failing her brother who eventually died of a drug overdose.

However, as Gekko-centric as the beginning of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is, director Oliver Stone isn't content to keep things simple. Instead, he inserts several competing storylines of varying quality in the mix that end up muddying the final result. In fact, just when you've settled in and started wondering what's going to happen now that Jake and Gekko have connected (and what Winnie will think of the development), another storyline is abruptly introduced.


First off, we meet the man who eventually brought Gekko down in the first place, his slimy counterpart Bretton James (Josh Brolin, a pro at playing the bad guy). After becoming an esteemed billionaire, the guy who'd do anything to get ahead (evidenced by his choice of artwork, natch) is suddenly on the brink of decline himself once his shady practices are called into question. Then we've got the shocking death of Jake's business mentor Louis Zabel (Frank Langella, who's terrific in a small role) and yet another subplot featuring Jake's mother (Susan Sarandon), a misguided real estate optimist who Jake frequently has to bail out. Of course, with the aforementioned family drama in the running, too, that thread also demands a share of the film's already-bloated running time, too.

Perhaps in an effort to appeal to everyone, the zing that made the first Wall Street such an enjoyably acerbic commentary of the times is definitely missing in Money Never Sleeps. And for those who aren't already privy to the particulars of the financial world, Stone isn't interested in offering any teachable moments either. Sure, purely as escapist entertainment, the movie is far from boring. But the lack of insight, not to mention the kinder, gentler Gekko who emerges certainly makes you miss the era of greed being good, which isn't the conclusion the filmmakers were probably hoping for

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Social drinking and cigarette smoking, plus a mention of a Winnie's brother's drug overdose.

  • Language/Profanity:  The PG-13 allotment of "f" words (two), plus a few instances where Jesus' name is used inappropriately and God's name is taken in vain.

  • Sex/Nudity:  No sex or nudity, although Jake and Winnie do live together and conceive a child before they're married. Given his new success on Wall Street, a couple of woman try their best seductive glances on Jake, but he's fiercely loyal to Winnie, even when his pals give him a hard time for it.

  • Violence:  A man intentionally leaps to his death on the subway tracks.

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.