Feb 7, 2011

[Movies] Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)There are some sequels out there that I have no idea why they were made. You know those types of movies - the one that don't necessarily have a large number of devoted fans constantly filing petitions for a sequel, or the movies that just did nominally well in the box office and especially those kinds of movies that people haven't been talking about to any significant degree within the past ten or so years.

And yet the sequels keep coming seemingly out of nowhere. I guess we can't totally blame Hollywood - these are much harsher times, economically speaking, and sequels feel like safer bets than truly original movies ideas. Plus a lot of sequels are able to get off the ground with more modest budgets than their predecessors, further sweetening pot for the overeager studio executive wanting to make his revenue targets.

To be fair, some of these sequels turn out to be really good and manage to capitalize on what made the original great. But this rarely happens beyond the last chapter of a trilogy and go especially wrong when your movie franchise is in the double digits range.

I'm not quite sure where this one places in the greater scheme of things, but it's not quite a sequel that I expected to be made nor is it that horrible a creative venture. Still, it leaves a lot of questions on the table for consideration and it's one of those situations when the ultimate decision regarding the movie's worth lies on the shoulders of the individual audience member.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (also known as Wall Street 2) is the direct sequel to the 1987 Wall Street. Oliver Stone directed both movies and the screenplay for the sequel was written by Bryan Burrough, Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff.

The movie begins with Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) finally being released from prison after serving less than eight years for insider trading and securities fraud. Seven years later, we find out that Gekko has now become an author on the lecture circuit because of his new book, Is Greed Good?, which nicely echoes one of Gekko's best quotes from the first movie. One of Gekko's TV appearances is being watched by young stock trader Jacob "Jake" Moore (Shia LeBeouf) and his girlfriend Winnie (Carey Mulligan), who turns out to be Gekko's now estranged daughter. She's an online activist with an online political blog.

Louis Zabel (Frank Langella) is the head of Keller Zabel Investments, the investment bank where Jake works. Zabel is quite the mentor figure for Jake and is highly supportive of his efforts to gather investors for a nuclear fusion project that he's championing. In a surprise gesture of generosity, Zabel gives Jake a $1.45 million dollar bonus for him to spend as he pleases. He uses part of the money to buy an engagement ring for Winnie but the greater majority he invests back in Keller Zabel as part of an odd bet of sorts with a friend.

Wall Street Money Never SleepsImage by WorthingTheatres via FlickrNaturally the next day Zabel's stock is down more than 30% because of speculation jitters around rumors of toxic debt that the company is holding on to. Zabel himself eventually commits suicide after reluctantly agreeing to a deal to sell the company at a highly reduced value to Bretton James (Josh Brolin) and his firm Churchill Schwartz. Jake blames Bretton for the death of his mentor and sets out to get revenge, and finds an unusual source of assistance in the "reformed" Gordon Gekko.

The story, I felt, was a tad convoluted and didn't maximize the potential of its time and place setting. Stone clearly wanted to target the period right before the start of the US economic crash but the movie didn't really have a strong message about it. It sort of just became a lot of background noise without a clear idea of what it wanted to stress or the potential message it wanted to convey. I felt this was a wasted opportunity given that period was so traumatic for the financial sector and there are bound to be great stories to be told there or parables of wisdom to be drawn out.

And I have no idea what the point was in stressing Nuclear Fusion and clean energy projects. It felt more like a decorative ornament thrown in at the last minute without substantial story value in the long run.

Regardless, people going to this movie probably go because they loved the vile and despicable character of Gordon Gekko from the first movie, and you'll certainly get that here. Douglas is a master charmer as Gekko and remains and intelligent, crafty and downright sneaky at times as he was before. Sure, he's matured to some degree with the passing of time - cooling off in prison for almost a decade can do that to you. But his truer nature remains present all throughout and thus you still get a lot of great quotable quotes from him throughout the movie. Douglas is just as good (or maybe even better?) than he was in the first movie and I'm glad he came back for the role.

I'm a big fan of Carey Mulligan ever since she starred as Sally Sparrow in the Doctor Who episode, Blink. And her acting career is full of a number of gems including Pride and Prejudice and An Education, to name a few. She was still amazing in this movie given the rather strained emotional state she had to convey most of the time, which is always good for her.

To be fair, Shia wasn't bad at all, although I don't think he was that amazing either. He did a pretty good job of bringing the role of Jake to life although I guess it hurts him when he acts too much like how he did in past movies like the Transformers films or even his weird TV days. He's definitely maturing as an actor and he may go far if he plays his cards right.

The movie was generally okay, but nowhere near as striking or emotionally powerful as the first one. The acting carried the film more than the story did but yay for silly sequel tropes like throwing in a scene with Charlie Sheen as Bud Fox just for the heck of it. And seriously, what's up with the horrible title for this movie?

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was a sequel that didn't need to be made but remains decent in terms of movies now that it exists. It was definitely a growing piece for Shia and a great demonstration of why Michael Douglas is still Michael Douglas. It gets 3.5 silly stock price shifts due to speculations and rumors out of a possible 5. You can get a copy of the movie on DVD or on Blu-ray via Amazon or your nearest retail store.

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