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Review – Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

I noticed that the NY Times and LA Times intellectually [and snobbishly] dismissed the new Oliver Stone film, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps in their reviews.

Considering that both institutions are hemorrhaging money in that same economy which the movie addresses, I can understand their politics. On the other hand, I loved it. Probably more than the original, and I went stark bonkers over that one in the sense that Gordon Gekko pin stripe suits and spread collar shirts over ran my budget where I needed a government bailout.

My real problem, though, with the earlier film starring Charlie Sheen was figuring out the ending. Seems like I wasn’t alone because Stone now takes great pains to answer questions and wrap up some of those loose ends.

Yeah, Sheen’s mentor Gekko [Michael Douglas] winds up getting jail time – loads of it, more than a convicted killer, Gekko tells Shia LaBeouf, a Wall Street up and comer, who also happens to be dating his daughter and making enough money to buy her $450,000 engagement rings.

But, contrary to what impressions we had been left with, it wasn’t Sheen who turned the Federal dogs on the Grand Vizier of Wall Street. We had to wait 23 years for the sequel to learn that Josh Brolin’s oily character, Bretton James, was the culprit.

Brolin’s villain is every inch the snake Gekko is, but the old pro, as we’ll learn, still has a few tricks up his Carnaby Street sleeves. My guess is Brolin’s ultimate downfall in the movie is, that for all the money his character has, he wears lousy suits and is a lousier match to Gekko for personal style. Jeezus, those floppy lapels! Call GQ.

On top of that, Douglas’ character is now fully realized and better documented [we learn why his daughter, a very drab Carey Mulligan] hates his guts and wants nothing to do with him. Mulligan, besides the requisite bed time with Shia [her offscreen lover] is busy with her own life which includes running a “lefty” website which we’re told, so many times, gets 50,000 hits a day. Even Brolin considers those significant numbers to consider advertising on it.

By the same token, Gekko’s also had a lot of time in prison to think. When we first met him, the man was too busy to fart, working deal after deal and figuring ways to connive and screw his fellow financial combatants. Now he’s got a philosophical perspective if not a new game plan. “Getting old is not for pussies,” he snarls.

Fresh out of prison, Gekko, by startling contrast, is uncoifed, wearing a cheap suit with an open neck shirt and no tie, while hawking a book and conducting seminars on how the American public’s being manipulated in the new economy. Actually, ten minutes of Douglas explaining this up on a stage in one of his seminars is worth any bullshit MSNBC analysis you’ll ever come across.

In doing so, he actually looks like a seedy version of his father, Kirk Douglas, and so we’re kept wondering when Gekko’s going to re-adopt the slick haired, tailored warrior persona. This takes us practically to the end of the film when Douglas moves bag and baggage to London for us to discover some major skullduggery he’s got in mind involving a trust fund he left his daughter, which by now has grown to about 100 million bucks, give or take.

A you-didn’t-see-this-coming moment in the film is when Douglas runs into Sheen at a fundraiser and can’t resist the urge to needle Sheen about his old obsession, Blue Star, a deal which Sheen naively brought him and took a fall for because of insider trading. Sheen, now sporting a tan and two chicks on either arm, tells Gekko he eventually made millions out of the company and now vacations winters in St. Bart’s. Gekko, for maybe one time in his life, is left speechless.

LaBeouf’s character, Jake Moore, however, is way more sophisticated in the ways of life and Wall Street than Sheen’s ever was, and he has a few axes of his own to grind. He’s of the opinion that Brolin was instrumental in the financial downfall of his mentor played by Frank Langella which prompts Langella to jump in front of a subway car. [In the old days they jumped out of windows].

In retaliation, LaBeouf, in one week, orchestrates enough felony-worthy manipulations to cost Brolin’s company 120 million. Impressed with that, Brolin offers him a job with his own company. LaBeouf, for the moment, accepts thinking there’s some social cause he can further, while the movie’s down time consists of LaBeouf and Mulligan playing these doe-eyed idealists given to making sappy speeches about making the world a better place.

Its strengths, of course, are when Douglas and Brolin are up to evil incarnate. As usual, Douglas has the trump card.

Sometimes it’s more fun to root for the villains, and any resemblance to some slick shyster you may have come across in the adult business is probably and purely coincidental.

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