Wednesday 22 September 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps review

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (PG-13/12A, 133 mins)
Director: Oliver Stone
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

When we left Gordon Gekko at the end of 1987’s Wall Street, it looked very much like he was on his way to prison for insider trading. Michael Douglas reprises his Oscar winning role as the former superstar corporate raider, and we meet him at the start of this belated sequel just as Gekko is getting out of jail in 2001, penniless and a man out of his time.

Fast forward to 2008 and he’s written a book called ‘Is Greed Good?’, a riff on his most famous line from the original movie, and doing the lecture circuit. Meanwhile on Wall Street, Jake (Shia LaBeouf) is a young analyst living the high life on his huge bonuses with his girlfriend Winnie (Carey Mulligan), who just happens to be Gekko’s daughter.

But as the depth of the bad times hit and shares plummet, Jake’s mentor (Frank Langella) loses a fortune and kills himself when his business is consumed by rivals. Jake goes toe to toe with Josh Brolin’s rival investor whom he blames for Langella’s death, hoping to take him down from the inside, with the aid of some advice from Gekko who hopes to reconcile with Winnie.

Given the monumental financial upheaval of the last couple of years, this seems like the ideal time to revisit these themes. The flash and vulgarity of the 80s is gone, replaced with the subprime excess of the 00s, and the overriding theme is that greed is not good.

Oliver Stone directs at a clip, delivering stunning photography of the New York cityscapes and boardroom scenes that are lit like something out of The Godfather, while clearly having something to say on the issue.

Gekko believes we are all to blame for this but the movie is not really about his comeback as such, nor is it simply a retread of the original with a new protégé in place of Charlie Sheen. It’s more a character study than a thriller but it’s still tremendous fun.

LaBeouf is charismatic though he has a tendency towards mumbling and Douglas is just as good as he was first time round, with an added dose of mischievous humour, plus fine support from a slimy Brolin and a sly cameo from an old friend for fans of the original.

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