Today: February 28, 2024
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Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Cinema

When greed is no longer good, can a sequel to a film that exemplified capitalist ambition ever hope to succeed?

What’s most remarkable about Oliver Stone’s sequel to his Oscar-winning 1990 drama Wall Street is how close it comes to excellence. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
recent topping of the US box office owes more to its star power and
subject matter than the quality of the film but with a more judicious
hand in the editing suite, the sequel could have matched its
predecessor.

Unfortunately, a wishy-washy grasp on plot pacing and some stylistic
self-indulgence means Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a mid-market
product rather than a world leader.

There’s a great deal to like about Wall St: Money Never Sleeps with Craig Armstrong providing a typically strong score and Brian Eno and David Byrne combining to ambient affect for the film’s soundtrack. Carey Mulligan shows wonderful subtlety and emotional scarring while LaBeouf more than holds his own against Douglas,
the latter recapturing the vigour and amorality of Gekko in a
performance that confirms his place in Hollywood history. With an energy
beyond his years and a marvellous charisma that offsets his underlying
deceit, Douglas turns in a true movie star performance as Gekko, all the
more remarkable given his son’s conviction and imprisonment for drug
trafficking during the film’s production process.

Our principals are also aided by a script that, on occasion, fizzes
with the same righteous indignation and intellectual ire that marks
Stone’s best work as a filmmaker and in depicting the 2008 crash of the
global markets, the director’s skill for evoking a time and place are
proved in thrilling fashion.

Sadly, it’s the recent, real life grounding of the storyline that
proves one of the biggest flaws of Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. LaBeouf might impress and move – especially in his scenes with onscreen father figure Frank Langella
– but his character remains a banker. A reasonably liberal, green
banker but part of the financial sector all the same and, as a result, a
difficult hero to root for in 2010. The film’s accuracy also undermines
its dramatic momentum in a Titanic-esque manner; we’re waiting for the
FTSE to falter as impatiently as we anticipated the iceberg striking the
ocean liner.

What disappoints the most is Stone’s lack of restraint when it comes
to flashy visuals and needless slo- and hi-motion sequences, adding a
good ten minutes to an already lengthy drama.The innumerable location
shots quickly annoy while a third act boys’ toys bike racing scene is
ludicrous and utterly unnecessary.

Stone’s an experienced enough filmmaker to tie up loose ends of
competing storylines and Douglas’ verve keeps the viewer enhanced even
in the midst of interminable financial jargon. There’s also a compelling
focus on Stone’s frequent tropes of the pursuit of power and the search
for self through work.

But there’s something resigned in the film’s approach to its subject
matter that means the fine performances are overshadowed by a sense that
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps doesn’t condemn the worst aspects of capitalism but accepts them with a sad shrug.

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