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Gekko Redeemed! 

Oliver Stone wimps out in his long-awaited 'Wall Street' sequel

The once-fearless Oliver Stone seems a little scared of himself and his subject in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

Rather than shredding those most responsible for the recent financial crisis, Stone creates convoluted arguments about the causes and possible solutions, all while trying to give us a kinder, gentler Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas).

I need a kinder, gentler Gordon Gekko like I need a Halloween movie in which Michael Myers gives candy and smiles to teenagers rather than disemboweling them.

The film begins in 2002, as a weary Gekko leaves prison after serving eight years for money-related crimes. Nobody is there to greet him at the gate, and he holds an antiquated portable phone.

Cut to 2008, and Gekko is promoting a book, renting a ritzy Manhattan apartment and trying to re-enter the life of his estranged daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Winnie is engaged to young broker Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), who really wants to be rich, but he has a conscience: He wants to get a lot of money so he can help finance a new experiment in fusion-energy technology.

This is a lame way to make him virtuous.

Jake sees Gekko giving a speech about the current state of the economy, in which he offers a cute spin on his famous line—"Greed is good!"—by saying, "Greed is good ... now, it seems it's legal."

When was greed ever illegal? Yes, greed has inspired many an illegal act, but greed itself was never illegal the last time I checked. No authorities showed up on my porch trying to bust me for wanting a boat. (I don't have a porch, nor do I want a boat, but that's not important right now.)

Jake introduces himself to Gekko as his future son-in-law, unbeknownst to Winnie, and they form some sort of alliance in which Jake tries to help Gekko reconcile with his daughter, while Gekko advises Jake on how to avenge the death of his mentor, Louis (Frank Langella). Louis decided to make out with an oncoming train after the evil Bretton James (Josh Brolin) helped destroy his banking firm.

I was about halfway into the film when I realized Stone was wimping out. The screenplay offers generally negative talk about the current state of global economic affairs, but never truly focuses on anything. Stone spends most of the movie showing us the Gekko family drama—and, seriously, who gives a crap?

The true travesty comes when Stone teases viewers with a possible sinister Gekko twist—one that would have made the movie so much better—but then pulls back. Instead, Stone offers warm, fuzzy redemption for Gekko. Sure, bad people can write checks and get out of trouble all the time, but Stone does nothing to illustrate how despicable this is. International film audiences have grown to love Mr. Douglas in the 23 years since the original came out, and Stone seems to think we can't accept him as a complete monster.

And nuts to the scene in which Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) shows up at some benefit that Gekko is attending, resulting in a nice, jovial conversation. Gekko acts like he's just bumped into a beloved member of his high school football team—not the guy who infiltrated his camp and started his legal troubles. Come on, Oliver! Gekko could've at least thrown a drink in Fox's face before making nice.

Throw this in the bin with unnecessary sequels like Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 and Lethal Weapon 4. (You know, the one in which Mel Gibson and Danny Glover had some sort of psychic connection.) The joy of seeing Douglas back in perhaps his most infamous role is ruined, because Oliver Stone wimps out and continues to deteriorate as a director.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Rated PG-13 · 130 minutes · 2010
Official Site: www.wallstreetmoneyneversleeps.com
Director: Oliver Stone
Producer: Edward R. Pressman, Eric Kopeloff, Celia Costas, Alex Young and Alessandro Camon
Cast: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Eli Wallach, Susan Sarandon, Frank Langella, Austin Pendleton, John Bedford Lloyd, Vanessa Ferlito, John Mailer and Jason Clarke

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More by Bob Grimm

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What others are saying (7)

Colorado Springs Independent Cash cabal: Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps It's adorable and terrifying to look at Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and see the ultimate '80s icon of sharky, sociopathic greed, Gordon Gekko, reduced to an object of quaint amusement. by MaryAnn Johanson 09/23/2010
Charleston City Paper Gordon Gekko returns in Oliver Stone's sequel to Wall Street How do you make a sequel to the strutting, chest-beating capitalism thrill ride of Oliver Stone's 1987 Wall Street in post-bailout America? Very carefully. In keeping with our more humbled, cautionary times, the operative word in the Gordon Gekko sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is repent, repent, repent. The human race, Stone's sequel suggests, has taken a step backwards as of late, its evolutionary tendencies morphing into destructive ones as we lose sight of the important (i.e. non-monetary) things in life. by Felicia Feaster 09/22/2010
Portland Mercury Too Much Ain't Enough Anyone want some Wall Street 2? Anyone? Anyone? by Ned Lannamann 09/23/2010
4 more reviews...
Boise Weekly The Projector: Movies opening Friday, Oct. 1 A protective vampire; an Australian crime family; something from Fight Club's Fincher; a dive becomes the place to be; teens and their virginity; Oliver Stone's long-awaited Wall Street sequel; and the high-school bully finally gets what's due to her. It's all at the movies. 10/01/2010
The Coast Halifax Deciphering Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps The financial language is impenetrable, but Oliver Stone's film portrays a cancerous greed that envelopes the entire world. by Hillary Titley 09/30/2010
Colorado Springs Independent Opening this week Countdown to Zero, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, Tapestries of Hope and more. 09/23/2010
Boise Weekly New on DVD: Wall Street II Money never sleeps. by George Prentice 12/15/2010

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