Movie ReviewWall Street: Money Never Sleeps★★★★
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps opens with Gordon "Greed is Good" Gekko (Michael Douglas) receiving his iconic and now-quite-outdated mobile phone as he leaves prison where he spent time for insider trading.
The real story, however, begins eight years later. Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) is an enterprising young broker whose girlfriend Winnie (Carey Mulligan) happens to be Gekko's estranged daughter.
Moore pushes for alternative energy, but in the wake of a rival's carefully crafted rumors, his company folds and is unable to back the project he developed. His mentor, Lew Zabel (Frank Langella), kills himself over the company's collapse. The plot quickly becomes a tangled web of business deals, relationships and desire - a fictionalized version of the 2008 banking crisis in many respects.
Moore attends a lecture Gekko is giving about his new book, and as they start meeting it becomes clear that, though cautious, Moore feels the pull of Gordon Gekko's magnetic personality. The big question: Has Gekko really changed since the first Wall Street? This question and its answer become, unsurprisingly, central to the movie's plot.
As far as sequels go, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a deserving film in its own right. At one point, Gekko tells Moore: "It's not about the money. It's the game. The game between people." Though Gekko waxes rhetoric way too often, his points stand. The movie itself is not really about the money and economics of Wall Street, but rather the relationships people have with power and money and the intricacies of character that can cause a billionaire to commit fraud.
The acting in Wall Street is phenomenal: Douglas does his reprised role ample justice and LaBeouf practically breathes the part. Mulligan reveals herself to be as talented as she is beautiful, and the dynamic between the two young characters rivals that of any romance movie.
The film is incredibly suspenseful and gives a complexity to Gekko's character that was formerly lacking. While he is, in many ways, still a reptilian businessman, this movie works to explore deeper motivations. Without all this complexity, the movie would have failed to be more than a clever knock-off. In some ways, the sequel surpasses its predecessor.
Still, the film has flaws. LaBeouf, although incredibly convincing, at times looks too young for the part he is playing. In addition, the graphics were oddly jarring and often felt out of place in this otherwise-sleek movie. Sometimes when Moore is talking, random images suddenly dance across the screen in explanation. Don't understand nuclear fusion? Here's an easy computer-generated diagram!
There is also a bizarre, Photoshop-esque moment when Zabel's ghostly head appears against a bathroom stall, just in case we somehow forgot what Moore's motivation was for his latest transaction. And while the ending is enjoyable, it seems to wrap up far too easily.
Yet Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a movie that will greatly entertain the business-savvy and economically-na've alike.