Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Eli Wallach, Susan Sarandon, Frank Langella, Austin Pendleton, John Bedford Lloyd, Vanessa Ferlito, John Buffalo Mailer, Oliver Stone, Charlie Sheen
Written by: Allan Loeb, Stephen Schiff
Directed by: Oliver Stone
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and thematic elements
Running Time: 133
Date: 05/14/2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Culture Cash

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Made 23 years ago, Wall Street was dedicated to Oliver Stone's father, a former trader. It was a parable for the 1980s, a very clear and detailed update of the Mephistopheles/Faust story. It was seductive and effective, and it was very telling that the villain, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), came up with the movie's one and only Oscar nomination -- and win.

Today, released from jail and back on Wall Street, Gekko is just as seductive. In Stone's new sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Gordo has written a book about the sorry state of our nation's current finances. He does lecture tours, but he has no real cash to play with. Fortunately, he meets the young and hungry trader Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), who happens to be engaged to Gekko's estranged daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Jake is a noble type, who is devoted to his mentor, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella), and dedicated to helping fund a new type of fusion energy, developed by Dr. Masters (Austin Pendleton).

After a huge shakeup, Louis commits suicide by throwing himself in front of a subway. Jake accepts a job from the shady billionaire Bretton James (Josh Brolin), even though he suspects that Bretton may have engineered the shakeup. Then Jake quits in a huff after he learns that Bretton is crooked, and all the while, he trusts Gekko implicitly. There's more, but, frankly, the screenplay by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff (not Stone) is short on characters and long on financial jibber-jabber. It's not easy to follow, entirely, and the characters are so shallow and predictable, that we don't care to really figure out what's going on. Gone is Stone's original point, and instead we have film that points a finger at greed, but encourages us all to make a fortune by "going green."

LaBeouf seems unclear as to how to play all this. His character is meant to be a junior version of Gekko, obsessed with money, but also pure of heart and concerned with the future of the environment; and so he comes across as constantly pained. Douglas is cool as cucumber, however, and has his best moment on a book tour, giving a speech as to the idiocy of the current American financial strategy, i.e. the one that caused our current mess. He easily wins over the crowd onscreen, as well as the crowd in the movie theater. In the past, Stone was better able to construct an entire movie out of a political ideal like this, but here, his characters, story and messages are all shooting in opposite directions. (Stone is not credited on the screenplay, incidentally.)

Thankfully we get some nice little character turns by Susan Sarandon, Eli Wallach (making sinister little "birdie" noises), New York hottie Vanessa Ferlito, and even Charlie Sheen (returning, briefly, as Bud Fox) to help pass the time. These minor characters may come out better than the leads, simply because, unlike Gekko or Jake, they stay put most of the time; they know their place. The original film is very much of the 1980s, but it still tells a timeless story, and is still worth seeing. This one is a half-hearted rant that will be as old as yesterday's newspapers by the time it hits DVD and Blu-Ray.

Fox's new Blu-Ray edition comes with a Stone commentary track, a conversation between Stone and the cast, deleted/extended scenes, other featurettes and interviews, and a digital copy.

Best Buy Co, Inc.