Admirers of Oliver Stone’s 1987 classic Wall Street were surely intrigued when news of a sequel first broke. Although the film begins well, it loses its way; Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps does not come close to matching the overall quality of its predecessor.
A number of years after he is released from prison, Gordon Gekko is on the book promotion circuit. Jake Moore is going out with Gekko’s estranged daughter Winnie, and attends one of Gekko’s lectures to introduce himself. Jake needs help with his career, so Gekko uses this to enlist the young trader’s help in reuniting him with his daughter…
A sequel to Wall Street seems particularly timely given the economic turmoil of recent years. Given that the film is set in 2008, it would appear that writers Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff aimed to capitalise on the distrust felt towards the finance sector. The film is successful in one regard; with a backdrop of the economic crisis with a company modelled on Lehman Brothers, it easy to follow the parallels. Nevertheless, despite the possibilities offered by this setting, the filmmakers chose to refrain from more hard-hitting commentary to focus on the personal story. In another film this may not have been an issue, but it all feels like it has done before in this sequel.
Jake is much like Bud Fox in the original film. A young up-and-comer, just like Bud, Gekko takes Jake under his wing. Again, Jake is warned against this, but decides to trust in Gekko’s wealth of experience instead. Jake is hotheaded and quite an interesting character to watch, but is just too similar to Bud.
Gordon Gekko is one of the most memorable characters in cinema of the last thirty years. In Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, however, is character flip-flops so many times it really is a betrayal of the persona built by the first film. At certain times his actions become predictable, while at other times they appear irrational in the context.
Michael Douglas is on good form as Gekko; it is just a pity the script does not live up to expectation. Shia LaBeouf gives a decent performance in a role that doesn’t really stretch his capabilities. Carey Mulligan doesn’t shine as Winnie, but in her defense the character is pretty doltish. Josh Brolin meanwhile brings some much needed gravitas as Bretton James.
The visual aesthetic is almost faultless, with some really intriguing cinematography. Likewise, the sound is great, combining the score with a splendid use of well-known tunes. The product placement is a sticking point, however, as the presumably intentional concentration on certain brands is distracting. Stone seemingly wished to make a comment about capitalism, but in this big-budget production there is an air of hypocrisy about it.
An opportunity to bring back a memorable character with hardly a more appropriate backdrop, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps fails to live up to its initial promise. With a better script and a more coherent narrative, the film could have struck gold.