Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

September 24, 2010

A greed apart

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:30 pm

September 24, 2010

Cast: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carrey Mulligan, Josh Brolin, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon

Director: Oliver Stone

“Greed is good,” he famously declared  more than 20 years ago in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, and Gordon Gekko’s mantra clearly resonated with many in the business world, as the recent global financial meltdown has proved. A sequel set in the present day would appear timely then…

Alas, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, directed by Stone himself, is too sanitized, too preachy, and ultimately a disappointing follow-up to that delicious film which turned the slimy corporate wheeler-dealer Gekko into a role model for a generation of stock traders.

Michael Douglas reprises his Oscar-winning role as Gekko, and we meet him in 2001 as he’s leaving prison after serving eight years for insider trading. The film quickly jumps another eight years and we meet Gekko again. By this time, he’s written a book titled “Is greed good?”, and it appears he’s had enough of the crooked corporate life.

Gekko remains the most interesting character in the story because his motives are hard to figure out, but he isn’t at the centre of this film. The sequel focuses on a promising young trader, Jacob Moore (played by Shia LaBeouf), who’s engaged to a squeaky-clean, morally upright blogger Winnie (played by Carey Mulligan), who happens to be Gekko’s daughter, although she hasn’t spoken to her father in years.

After the firm for which Jacob works goes under, and his father-figure boss commits suicide, Jacob seeks out Gekko and plots revenge against rival bank-head Bretton James (played by Josh Brolin) who had a big hand in the tragedy.

At two hours and thirteen minutes, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is too long, and it’s missing the sense of dangerous fun that made the first film so attractive and enjoyable. Stone directs with a heavy hand, underlining every point he makes, leaving absolutely nothing to subtlety. The message of this movie is clear from early on – greed is bad – and the director takes it upon himself to preach the cancerous effects of greed, trashing the financiers and bankers whose greed has gone to their head and is now threatening to take the global economy with it.

The acting’s solid, particularly from Michael Douglas who appears older and wiser, but still seems to possess that shark-like quality when an enemy crosses him. The best thing about this film are the scenes between Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan whose relationship is the only thing that rings true.

And yet, the film fails to engage for many reasons. If you’re unfamiliar with trader jargon, much of this movie is going to sound like Greek to you. It could have been gritty and realistic, but it goes for a more commercial, populist tone instead. The conflict seems too simplistic, and you’re bored for much of the film’s second hour.

For all these reasons I’m going with two out of five for Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Indeed, money may never sleep, but there’s a good chance you will, while watching this film.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

1 Comment »

  1. Rajeev,

    The last line is a killer. Great review.

    Comment by Gyandeep — September 25, 2010 @ 8:01 am

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