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Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Picture this: The iconically infamous (if fictitious) Gordon Gekko takes his daughter and prospective son-in-law to Shun Lee, the upscale Manhattan Chinese restaurant, for a sort of reconciliatory meal. And, just after they’re seated and a waiter appears, Gordon offers to order the young man a Heineken. I’m sorry, but isolated from café society and the circles and corridors of influence of our sorely threatened republic as I am, I harbor nagging doubt that former and aspiring lords of finance like these two men order Heinekens (particularly at posh premises like these. And before the meal!). What’s with that? Product placement (like the use of the restaurant’s brand)? I dunno, but it’s a sore-thumb imposition, anyway.

Oliver Stone’s sequel to the first Wall Street takes up the tale of Gekko (who else but Michael Douglas) 20-odd years down the road. This is maybe his third life chapter, after his former 1980s prince-of-sharks existence and then prison. Now he’s a chastened but still sardonically tuned-in student of high finance finagling, with a new best-selling commentary and expose to promote. The setting is 2008, and New York is Meltdown City, so Gekko has a lot to comment on.

He has also his estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan) to contend with, or not really, since she won’t speak to him. That’s where Jake (Shia LaBeouf) comes in. He’s her fiance and a little in awe of the persuasive Gekko. Can Gekko get Jake to arrange a papa-daughter rapprochement? More to the point, for the viewer, will the very young Jake come under the sway of Gekko or Jake’s boss, the arrogantly rapacious investment banker Bretton James (Josh Brolin).

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps never makes as much as it should out of this contest-for-the-soul of the sorcerer’s apprentice. Part of the problem, dramatically, is that the boyish Jake’s soul never really seems jeopardized; he’s a white-hat, green-investment promoter who didn’t participate in the reckless cowboy deals and the debacle unfolding apace in this country. (This character may be as anomalous as the Heinekens.)

Stone’s left-liberal politics have always been somewhat extravagant and incoherent (JFK), but this sequel, despite Douglas’ sharp performance and some pointed, witty early dialogue, is tepid and timid. Eventually, Stone settles for a mild effort at poignant family drama. The title of his movie seems to promise more action that he delivers.

—george sax

Watch the trailer for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

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