Truth hurts – Many people may not realize this, but we are still very much in a recession despite what our government says. And while I’ve never been one to promote politics, the one reality I can promote is how large a part politics plays in Hollywood. It’s not always apparent or obvious, but for years our government has made a point to ensure any film that brings some truth to the table about what’s going on overseas or domestically will not go far at the box office. So, whether its war, economics, healthcare or education, these hard pressed topics will be “pushed under the rug” as quickly as possible. That’s a truth you can count on and while “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” may not fall into politics as much as some of the “other” films post-9/11, it still exposes the one thing our country has been good at for quite some time, ‘greed.’ 

Just the facts – Even though this sequel is set some 23 years after the first film, you still may want to freshen up on what makes the iconic Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) tick. Here we find Gekko out of prison after a seven-year sentence for insider trading, having written a book titled Is greed good‘ and attempting to re-connect with his daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Doing so, would not be easy as he had not talked to Winnie in quite some time after the death of her brother Rudy years ago. Meanwhile, Winnie’s boyfriend and soon-to-be fiancé Jacob (Shia LaBeouf) is trying to make a name for himself on Wall Street as a proprietary trader. Ambitious and often clueless as to how much of a ‘game’ the financial market is, Jacob enlists the advice of Gekko after the death of his mentor and founder of the company Keller Zabel in which he worked for.  The deal was simple; Gekko agrees to help Jacob get his revenge on those responsible for his mentor’s death, if Jacob then helps Gekko reunite with Winnie. But, what Jacob failed to realize is no deal with Gordon Gekko was ever simple creating a multitude of chaos for not only him, but anyone close to him as he attempted to bring down James Bretton (Josh Brolin), the man he believed responsible for his mentor Lou’s (Frank Langella) suicide.  

Who was in it?  Anyone that saw the original to this sequel back in 1987 knows all too well the world that Michael Douglas created with his portrayal as Gordon Gekko. For some, just seeing the title “Wall Street” brings back memories of Douglas and Charlie Sheen creating turmoil on the famous NYC block. For everyone else, I think just knowing what this film is based in or around gets them into the theater given the current state of the economy. With that in mind, I was glad to see Michael Douglas reprise his role as the greedy Gordon Gekko, as it truly is one of the more iconic roles in Hollywood lure. For Douglas, who really hasn’t done a whole lot the past decade, I was impressed with his reemergence as Gekko. He dominated each and every scene he was in, which in the end might turn into a future supporting nod at The Academy Awards.

And it wasn’t just in how he played his own character as much as how he interacted with the rest of the cast, which was quite the list of “who’s-who” beginning with Shia LaBeouf. So, for all those people who have yet to see the talent LaBeouf posseses, this role should finally give you some understanding.  Often up against such greats as Frank Langella, Michael Douglas and Josh Brolin, LaBeouf held his own showing me he can stand toe to toe with some of the best when given the room to work.  Having said that, possibly the one supporter’ outside of Douglas that stole the show in this one was Josh Brolin. Often exuding a mild, yet dominant presence, Brolin made sure he was seen and heard by the time his villainous character entered the picture.  That, along with the ‘give and take’ of Douglas between anyone who he was up against helped this story maintain its excitement and validity throughout.

A Love/Hate relationship – There’s no doubt when Oliver Stone’s name comes up in casual conversation, a decisive ‘sigh’ overtakes the air. Whether that’s because of the stories Stone chooses to depict on the big screen or just how he films his movies, I’ll never know.  Having said that, I do admit I am on the side that enjoys what Oliver Stone brings to Hollywood.  Often going with that topic that will get people talking, I like how Stone draws the truth with his films, never afraid to just “go there.”  You may not always like it, but it’s often hard to deny what he is attempting to expose about our great country’s past or present. 

That notion didn’t change with “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” a sequel to his own hit “Wall Street,” a good 23 years ago. And knowing what the first installment entailed, I can honestly say this is one of the best sequels I have seen in a long time. Taking what worked the first go-around with Douglas and Sheen not only helped Stone recreate the magic, it showed how easy it is for him to tell a new story with virtually the same type characters.  Funny thing is, had the stock market not crashed when this film was being developed, we might have had a different director. If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about Oliver Stone, I don’t know what does as his dedication to “exposing the truth” is uncanny.

Bottom Line – It’s hard to pinpoint what truly was the cause to our countries recent financial meltdown, but the one thing we do know is how much of a role Wall Street and the banking industry play. That’s the essence of what shapes “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” and why Douglas’ own Gordon Gekko’s statement, “Money is not the prime asset in life, time is,” still rings true today. 

B+

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