‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ opens with Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) having served his time and getting released back into the world. Back in 1987 when we all saw Oliver Stone’s first ‘Wall Street’ and experienced the experience that was Gordon Gekko, I’m pretty sure Mr. Stone wanted to create a heartless callous reckless villain, and Gordon Gekko was definitely all of that but Michael Douglas somehow changed this cat into a hero and mentor for far too many people. I remember going to friends houses and seeing Gordon Gekko posters plastered on their bedroom walls, and not posters of Gordon Gekko being carted off to jail but Gekko looking quite regal with his Brylcreamed do, lording over all that he owned. Gekko had it all. He had game, he had money, he had women and people feared him. Folks loved that back in ’87. Now as it is in presented in the movie the protégé’s of Gekko have pretty much screwed everything up and it’s not like its Gekko’s fault because he was in jail during this time. In fact Gordon Gekko from his jail cell could plainly see, at least according to Gordon Gekko, that everything was going straight to hell and now that he’s out he’s a changed man. Or not.
In this sequel we are going to follow around a new young buck in hard driving broker Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) who as it so happens is engaged to Gekko’s estranged daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan). I hope watching actress Carey Mulligan look sad and cry doesn’t bother you because if it does you might want to look for another movie to watch. So deep are Winnie’s daddy issues that the mere sight of her father propels her to needlessly assault remote controls that didn’t do a damn thing to her. And it makes her cry.
Regardless, young Jake is raking it in at his brokerage under the tutelage of sage old broker Louis Zabel (Frank Langella) but alas all that glitters is not gold and as the world now knows, the bottom will fall out. There are some mighty tragic repercussions to this bottom falling out with Jake laying the bulk of the blame of this tragedy on the feet of scurrilous broker head honcho Bretton James (Josh Brolin), with Jake doing his best to make Bretton pay for his perceived crimes against humanity.
Meanwhile Jake has also palled up with his future father in law who acts sort of like a mentor to the young man while angling to get back in his baby girls life. News of this makes Winnie sad and she warns Jake to be careful because this man is no good. Then she cries.
Eventually father and daughter engage in a tearful reunion and all is right with the world. But not really. Winnie was right about her dad. Plus Jake wasn’t a hundred percent with her about his relationship with her dad. Needless to say this made Winnie sad and made her cry. Now everything Jake had once cherished is in complete ruins and one could blame Gordon on this, but truth be told it’s mostly Jake’s fault. But Gordon is back, his hair is gelled, he’s paid, he’s making deals and his competition has been eliminated. But damn, he really does love that baby girl of his. I’m thinking another reunion is in order followed by tears of joy.
Whereas the first ‘Wall Street’ played out almost like a financial horror movie, ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ is almost a romantic comedy. Yeah there’s lots of fancy financial talk, a touch of tragedy and Michael Douglas really did a fantastic job of updating Gordon Gekko while keeping the core character essentially the same, but where the first movie was bitter biting social commentary this one… not so much. It felt more like an update to ‘The Secret of My Success’ with Michael J. Fox than an Oliver Stone ‘Wall Street’ movie.
No doubt that is disappointing but this doesn’t mean that ‘Wall Street II’ is a terrible movie. In fact the first half of the movie with all of the fancy financial talk, being a fly on the wall observing the back room bank deals and all of the fancy graphical pyrotechnics that Oliver Stone used to illustrate what’s going on behind these scenes is nothing short of fascinating. Plus Frank Langella is in this movie and Mr. Langella, at least at this stage in his career, is like the best actor ever. To the contrary, while we can’t say that about Shia LaBeouf, what the young man does have in abundance is energy and the energy he brings to the role of Jack is perfect for the high octane first half of this movie.
Then somewhere along the line this thing transforms into a romantic melodrama. Boy has girl, boy loses girl boy has to get girl back and the financial disaster, which really was serving as mainly a backdrop for the first half of the movie, is almost completely cast aside as everything else in this movie is in service to the things the boy has to do to get the girl back. And while watching a social commentary give way to a Romantic Comedy was disappointing, observing an ending that turned a Romantic Comedy into a Hallmark Channel movie almost made my go Carey Mulligan and cry.
‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ isn’t a terrible movie. Oliver Stone, Michael Douglas, Frank Langella and the return of Gordon Gekko… how could it be? But it is these same elements that made what we got somewhat disappointing, with the term ‘it’s not terrible’ not being the ultimate goal that I’m thinking these artists of renown were shooting for.