Stone is lucky enough to have assembled a truly magnificent cast who are the only reason the convoluted, overblown plot is even moderately believable.
Walking into Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the biggest problem is knowing that it’s an Oliver Stone movie—which means there will, without fail, be a blindingly obvious political message shoved down the throats of the audience. This has not always been to the detriment of his work. His films are memorable and controversial, and are reminders of how powerful and persuasive cinema can be.
The film, it should be said, is a responsible, sincere sequel to Stone’s original indictment of the excessive greed and consumerism of the 80s. Money Never Sleeps shows how we as a country have come full circle. We still place high value on “stuff,” and conspicuous consumption has become ingrained in our way of life. This time around, the young hotshot through whom we experience the story is Jake Moore (Shia LeBeouf). Jake is not only aggressive and passionate, he’s also smart. Too smart. Jake’s tragic flaw is that his business acumen and knowledge of the stock market are so well-tuned that his arrogance blinds him to how chance can change everything in the blink of an eye.
Jake is engaged to Winnie (Carey Mulligan), the daughter of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Gekko was released from prison and has built a second career for himself by writing a best-selling book about what he learned from his exploits and time behind bars. Winnie has severed all ties with her father, but Jake sees the chance to learn from Gekko as the opportunity of a lifetime, and so he manipulates Winnie into rebuilding the relationship. Meanwhile, Jake is also trying to exact revenge on Bretton James (Josh Brolin), the man Jake believes destroyed his mentor, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella).
Stone is lucky enough to have assembled a truly magnificent cast who are the only reason the convoluted, overblown plot is even moderately believable. LeBeouf does his best to make Jake seem genuine, but runs at 100 miles per hour and never slows his pace at any point in the film. Mulligan is wholly underused, but she still gives a fine performance as the repeatedly betrayed daughter of Gordon Gekko. Speaking of, Douglas steps back into the iconic role without a hint of ever having stepping out of it. He’s confident, comfortable and most of all convincing—everything Gordon Gekko is. Douglas is a master at never revealing his hand but always finding ways to make others show theirs.
Brolin is quite good as James, who is possibly even greedier than Gekko (possibly). He embodies the role well and delivers a very enjoyable performance. Langella, however, will be the performance from which you can’t look away. Louis Zabel is old, desperate and clearly out of touch with how the world works now. His powerful performance should undoubtedly earn Langella another Oscar nomination for the raw emotion he expresses in the film. | Matthew F. Newlin