Wall Street, I want my money back. I mean the movie. I went to see Oliver Stone's sequel over the weekend in Brooklyn and it was a total waste of $12. I rarely expect much from a sequel, and I thought the first Wall Street movie was good, not great, but I was hoping for a little bit of sizzle. “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” seriously under-delivers. It’s especially disappointing because Stone had so much to work with: Mr. “Greed is Good” Gordon Gekko, presumably reformed after so many years in prison, plopped back down in New York at the height of the most recent market Armageddon--a perfect interpreter for our most recent decade of excess.
Unfortunately, Stone both over-reaches with his message and underestimates his audience. In his attempt to turn this story into a universal morality tale with grand implications about the dark heart of Wall Street, he made his characters such caricatures that they lost any relationship to reality or any ability to move us.
On the other hand, the treatment of the bank meltdowns and takeovers, leverage, and CDOs is so dumbed down that you might think Stone made this movie for an audience who didn’t read a single newspaper article any time between late 2008 and today. The ridiculous graphics (stock market fever lines tracing the outline of the New York City skyline) and split screen effects don’t help. They give the movie the feel of sitcom aimed at giddy teenagers.
The meetings between government officials and bank execs meant to mimic the frantic backroom dealings that took place when Bear Stearns first collapsed, and later when Lehman Brothers was on the brink, are particularly stilted. Some of the details are lifted directly from real life, but the drama and urgency of these moments are completely lost. The lines are delivered in a flat to whiny register; the men in the room somehow manage to throw tantrums and trade barbs without emotion or conviction. And I don't think this was intentional.
Plus, Michael Douglass doesn't have the same larger than life presence in this film that he had in the first movie. A speech he gives early in the story to a packed auditorium is peppered with clichés, as is a later scene where he is meant to have regained his swagger--returned to the fast-paced world of investing. He rattles off a series of ridiculously overused Wall Street boiler room-type phrases as though he has never heard them before. Maybe he is meant to be less sure of himself this time around, but the lines he is asked to deliver don't match the attitude.
Finally, Gekko’s daughter, played by Carey Mulligan, basically cries throughout the entire movie, which makes you wonder why Shia LaBeouf, who plays the young Wall Street trader turned Gekko
protégé, is so in love with her. And the ending (I won’t give it away in case you still want to see this flop yourself) is totally implausible--and totally schmaltzy.
Of course, none of this stopped people from flocking to see it this last weekend. According to MTV news, it topped the weekend box office, pulling in $19 million.
Next up. Wall Street 3: Bloggers Never Shut Up