Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Eli Wallach
Director: Oliver Stone
Writer(s): Allan Loab, Stephen Schiff
Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto
Original Score: Craig Armstrong
Running Time: 133 Mins.
What is it that demands a sequel of a film? Certainly (and ironically in the case of Wall Street mk.2)it is money in the eyes of the suits, but from an audience P.O.V. it is an urge to see more of characters we either love, or love to hate, wishing fro those characters to be allowed to breathe and develop beyond what we already know of them, certainly any good sequel does this successfully whilst progressing the story in new interesting directions while staying true to that character. Certainly under this mantra as many sequels fail as succeed which begs the question as to where Oliver Stone’s sequel (which slyly avoids calling itself such in the title dropping the “2”) falls, bottom line success or failure?
For those in the know we pick up in 2001, whereby Gordon Gekko (Douglas) has been released from a stint in prison for fraud, lumbered with loneliness and a trite sob-story (his son has killed himself, his wife absconded and his daughter disowning him) Gekko writes a book and becomes a self-proclaimed financial guru, fast forward 8 years to 2009 and Gekko’s daughter Winnie (Mulligan) is due to marry a young banker/stock broker in the form of Shia LaBeouf’s Jake Moore, Jake looks up to his finance’s father despite having never met him and in the hope of both reuniting father and daughter and gaining the man’s financial clout and knowledge seeks him out and so begins a series of games played out between not only Jake, Winnie and Gekko.
On the basis of that synopsis you may well think there is little left to fit in, but remember folks the film is called Wall Street for a reason and woven around the central triangle are a number of other subplots involving revenge coming from all directions, bankers, investors, scientists!, issues of mentor and pupil and the imminent arrival of the big financial crash Gekko begins the film by predicting. There is a lot going on and sadly even a masterful director like Stone drops one or two of the balls, somewhat inevitably it is the story(ies) that directly involve Gekko that are the most watchable and on this basis it is a great shame he is very much a support player leaving LaBeouf to take centre stage.
As an actor LaBeaouf is no worse than Charlie Sheen (who makes a brief, crowd-pleasing appearance) was in the previous film, that is not to say either actor is bad rather they are nigh on uncharismatic when stood next to Douglas on his best days, add to this standout turns from Frank Langella, Eli Wallach, Susan Sarandon and to a lesser degree Brolin, LaBeouf starts to look a little lost and out of his league much as he did in that other long-time-coming sequel, albeit with a lack of CGI monkeys this time around. Equally lacking in impact is Mulligan, hugely over-rated in general she seems dull and capable of only mild emotions here, something which makes it hard to believe she is of Gekko’s loins!
So back to the man himself, he may at first seem a little tarnished compared to the Gekko we know and love of yesteryear, but if you are coming to the franchise a newbie you may be left wondering why he is such an iconic character, for until the latter half hour that wolf-like man of the 80’s is only there in flashes, saturated into the yearning family man, still manipulating but for different reasons…
Aside from performance what strikes you as the most unusual thing is Stone’s lack of statement on the financial crisis, the thing that was surely his motive for returning to this world, he should in theory be the best person to turn a critical eye on society and the financial downturn caused by us but that message becomes lost amidst the lack of focus. Thankfully his direction is up to scratch, showing the flash that can make something as dull to watch as stocks and the stock market into a visual feast. CGI is used to great, if a little on the tacky side, effect and the shooting in and around New York is sublime, very cinematic and borderline travelogue, if nothing else you will want to spend your hard earned cash on a trip there once the credits role, maybe not Stone’s intended parting wish/..
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps lacks the focus and vitriol of the original but it does have a sterling turn from Douglas and some great direction, it’s just a shame there is little substance beneath the sheen leaving the film hovering between success and failure.