I witnessed a filmic tragedy this past weekend. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is the sequel to Wall Street (no colon). Unlike the original, Money Never Sleeps has no apparent point of view and no guts.
It is a mess of ideas that never really resolve; I weep for the waste of it all.
There is often no artistic reason for a movie sequel. Usually sequels are done for the sake of cold, hard cash. Sometimes, however, a sequel is creatively justified. I can’t think of a more apt example of this than Oliver Stone’s Wall Street.
The original Wall Street was a hyperbolic and highly entertaining romp through the stock market and those swaggering fools who rode the wave throughout the 1980’s. Michael Douglas had the signature role of Gordon Gekko, a man for whom greed is good. Charlie Sheen, in a role that obviously taught him nothing about real life, played a stock market newcomer who grows a moral conscience after trying (and failing) to play by Gekko’s rules.
Wall Street is a sharp, incisive film that not only entertains, it has a strong opinion about money, markets, and the corrupt creatures who thrive in that world. It is a darn shame that its sequel has none of those qualities.
When the markets crashed in 2008, those craven braggarts who nearly drove our country into financial seppuku should have all gone to jail. They didn’t. Instead, they got the government to bail them out just in time to receive their year-end bonuses. It would be nice to see them tried and hanged on the movie screen, if not in real life. Wall Street was due for a continuation.
Money Never Sleeps takes place around the time of the market crash. Gekko has been released from jail and has now written a bestselling book. His daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), claims to hate Gekko but 1) is dating a guy (Jake, Shia LaBeef) in the same field as her dad and 2) stands to inherit one hundred million of his ill-gotten dollars.
Oliver Stone obviously loves the environment, and he wants us (dear viewers) to know it. Winnie, that trustafarian, works for a nonprofit blog and Jake dreams of using seawater to create a fusion power plant. Did you know we’re exactly one hundred million dollars away from clean fusion power? Oliver Stone does.
Money Never Sleeps doesn’t have a clear plot, although it does have a bad guy in the form of Bretton James (Josh Brolin), who gets lynched at the end of the movie. No, wait. Bretton does get a stern talking-to. And LaBeef and Winnie get to see Gekko reformed, and LaBeef’s mom (Susan Sarandon) gets out of her crooked real estate business selling McMansions, and Frank Langella gets to appear as a ghost. Everybody gets something in Money Never Sleeps, which is what movies are all about.
Or are movies about opinions, and thought? Money Never Sleeps is a mess of conflicted messages and never comes up with anything resembling a logical narrative or character arc.
And what did I get from Money Never Sleeps? A waste of nearly two and a half hours, and this blog post.