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Friday, September 24, 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps



"Money is a bitch that never sleeps."

Set during the economic collapse of 2008, roughly the same time that Barack Obama was elected President and Sasha Grey was giving lonely rich men a girlfriend experience, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps trumpets the return of Michael Douglas as 1980's slickster Gordon Gekko, and the return of Gekko to relevance. Hawking his life story of wealth and incarceration while speaking to young Wall Street hopefuls as a means to pay the rent for his midtown high rise apartment, Douglas still oozes charm and oily promise as he plots his way into the $100,000,000 trust fund he left his daughter, the unfortunately named Winnie Gekko, played by Carey Mulligan. Mulligan is engaged to Shia LaBeouf, an up and coming, idealistic young millionaire trader. LaBeouf tries to earn Douglas' favor both to reunite Mulligan with her father and to exact revenge on Josh Brolin, the current king of Wall Street, for destroying the company LaBeouf works for. Director Oliver Stone has a lot to say about the real-life financial collapse of Wall Street and much of what he does say is on the nose (including images of dominoes falling and a final shot of a bubble floating into the sky, not bursting - what, no house of cards or Jenga tower collapsing?). The scenes of the backdoor dealings by the heads of the major Wall Street magnates purposefully echos the criminal stylings of The Godfather, right down to the presence of Eli Wallach. There's some interesting commentary on the future of investing, with the movie championing green energy and research into fusion as the way of the future. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is really an old fashioned story about payback, who wins and who loses when you play with men's lives for all-or-nothing stakes. Gekko's true motives are kept on the back burner for most of the movie until he triumphantly returns to greasy-topped billionaire form at the end, once more a made man. (Charlie Sheen cameos as Bud Fox, Gekko's ambitious protege in the original Wall Street, and we're amused but not surprised at how poorly he turned out.) With a PG-13 rating instead of its predecessor's R, Money Never Sleeps is considerably less lurid about the sex, drugs and power incredible wealth brings, but that was a story for another era. Instead, this new Wall Street features performances from Douglas, LaBeouf, and Mulligan of genuine emotional power as they resolve their familial issues. (Douglas is moving when he bares his soul to his daughter in a rare unguarded moment of vulnerability. Mulligan is a gold medal winner at turning on the waterworks and crying on demand). In the end, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps argues that greed is still good today, and even a Gekko can change his spots, just a little.