Michael Douglas and his infamous line, "Greed is good." The movie itself is pretty good, and 23 years after its release, director Oliver Stone decided to return to his iconic character and continue the story with 2010's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
After spending 13 years in jail for insider training and securities fraud, Gordon Gekko (Douglas) is finally given his parole. Some seven years pass, and now he's promoting his new book 'Is Greed Good?' when he meets a young stock broker, Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), who is engaged to Gordon's estranged daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Gordon wants to form a relationship with a daughter who might as well consider him dead. At the same time, Gordon begins to help Jake, a talented, intelligent broker in his own right, as he starts a new job with a high-level firm broker, Bretton James (Josh Brolin), who has rubbed plenty of people the wrong way in his rise to power. With millions and billions of dollars on the line and the massive egos to boot, an epic confrontation looms, but the struggling economy may have the last laugh over everyone involved.
For starters, let's get this somewhat obvious statement out of the way. Like just about any sequel ever, this is basically the definition of unnecessary. Why go back to a movie from 23 years ago and revisit a character -- however iconic -- and story that didn't need revisiting? Oh...the sequel made $130 million in theaters? I suppose that's as good a reason as any. Well, in business at least. Other than the epic economic issues of the last 10 years, there's no real reason to make this sequel. That said, it's not bad. The biggest thing working in positive fashion is the acting. The story lacks a bit of punch -- it's missing something in the energy department -- but I liked it just the same. Unnecessary? Oh, you betcha, but you could do worse.
I like movies, sports, reading. I can B.S. my way through a fair share of conversations. The financial crisis of 2008 is most definitely not one of those things. I have a very basic knowledge of the economic collapse that this sequel goes into in depth, but I'm far from an expert. In other words, some background and/or understanding in big money, Wall Street, stocks, and everything financial will no doubt help your enjoyment of this flick. Because my knowledge of the subject material is limited, I wasn't always crystal clear on what was going on. I still liked it, but it's an issue just the same. End of sidenote.
Without question, the best thing going for Stone's sequel is the return of Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko. His introduction is perfect, Gekko getting his parole and being released from prison after serving 13 total years in jail. We see him get his possessions back from a suit to a watch to a rather massive cell phone. The message is clear; times have changed, and Gordon is a dinosaur who has to adjust with the times. I think Stone makes an incredibly wise choice. For much of the movie, Gekko is a secondary -- if incredibly important secondary -- character that fleets in and out of the story as needed. Any scene with Douglas in it is worth watching, his appearances bringing the entire movie up a notch just by being there. He makes the others around him better. The new movie itself is unnecessary, but Douglas's appearance makes it worthwhile.
The rest of the cast is solid if unspectacular. It seems no matter the movie, LaBeouf takes grief for any number of things -- wooden acting, bad acting, off-screen antics -- but as long as he's not in loud, obnoxious, and obvious Transformers mode, I like him. It isn't a flashy part (that is left to Douglas, nailing it in subtle fashion), but LaBeouf's Jake is the main character, and for me, an interesting one. Mulligan too is pretty good as Winnie, Gordon's estranged daughter who wants nothing to do with her father. Behind Douglas, I thought the best part was from Brolin as the Wall Street rival with some ulterior motives. Frank Langella is a scene-stealer as well as Louis Zabel, Jake's aging mentor who hates what Wall Street is becoming, Susan Sarandon plays Jake's mom who's heavily invested in real estate, Eli Wallach as a Wall Street dinosaur, and Jason Clarke as the NYC Fed chief. Not necessarily great performances, but it's fun to see all those names assembled.
This 2010 sequel is missing that special something from making it an above-average, truly enjoyable flick. It's good enough, but it's never more than that. Clocking in at 138 minutes, it feels incredibly long in certain stretches. Lots of dialogue isn't a bad thing, but at times, it gets a little tedious, a little slow. Douglas certainly helps the momentum pick up a bit, especially late when we see the Gekko we all love to hate. Charlie Sheen even makes a cameo as Bud Fox, the protagonist in the original Wall Street. I liked this one, didn't love it. Not bad stuff.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010): ** 1/2 /****