Directed by: Oliver Stone
Premise: A sequel to the 1987 film. Taking place just before the economic collapse in 2008, Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas) is released from prison and attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan) through her Wall Street trader fiancé (Shia LaBeouf).
What Works: Over two decades have passed since the original Wall Street film and the sequel successfully picks up the story, replicating some of the sequences and relationships of the original film and updating them for the contemporary time period. From beginning to end, the film spans several years and it is really a dramatization of recent financial disasters from the early failures of established banks in the middle of the decade to the bailout of the entire banking system at the end of the decade. As a fictionalized version of recent history, the Wall Street sequel works wonderfully and it manages to cram quite a bit of the crisis into a two-hour film while communicating complex financial dealings in a mostly intelligible way, although audiences will need to pay close attention. One of the most interesting things about this film is its treatment of Gordon Gecko, again played by Michael Douglas. While he was the villain of the original film, in the sequel he is a much more ambiguous character and Douglas successfully creates empathy for this man through his relationship with his daughter and his wounded pride. Another impressive performance of the film is Frank Langella as the beleaguered mentor to Shia LaBeouf’s character. Langella embodies the conscience of the film and his presence adds a lot of gravity to first half of the story.
What Doesn’t: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps goes awry in the ending. The film forgets the edgier roots of its predecessor or even its first half and transitions into a domestic drama in the final act of the story. The ending is inconsistent with the themes that the film develops throughout the course of story and it comes across as a copout Hollywood ending.
Bottom Line: Despite the failures of the finale, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is an impressive effort and an interesting approach to a sequel and to dramatizing recent financial foibles. It is nowhere near as good or as iconic as the original film but it stands well enough on its own.
Episode: N/A (October 3, 2010)