Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps


Directed by: Oliver Stone
Written by:Allan Loeb, Stephen Schiff
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Michael Douglas, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon, Eli Wallach, Frank Langella
Released: September 23, 2010
Grade: B-

Twenty years ago, Gordon Gekko lived by the mantra that “greed is good”.  Those three simple words have been echoed by many in the business world since the original Wall Street was released.  The recent global financial crisis has shown us that.  Major banks in the United States were lending money to practically anybody.  You didn’t need collateral or proof of income.  The whole system was driven by greed.  Company boards wanted to push up the share price.  Staff wanted big bonuses.

It’s now time for another apt saying – “what goes up must come down”.  Gordon Gekko knows that one too.  Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps begins in 2001 with Gordon being released from prison.  He spent 8 years behind bars after being found guilty of insider trading.  Is he a changed man?  It would appear so.  We quickly pan to the year 2008 and see Gordon promoting his new book.  It’s entitled “Is Greed Good?”

He’s the most interesting character but Mr Gekko isn’t centre stage this time around.  The camera’s lens is focused squarely on Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf), a successful young trader with a growing reputation.  Jacob has developed a keen interest in “green energy” and he’s looking for investors to fund a start-up company that is developing laser fusion technology.

There’s a link between these two guys.  Her name is Winnie (Carey Mulligan) and she’s daughter to Gordon, fiancé to Jacob.  Winnie hasn’t spoken to her father in many years however.  Their family fell apart while Gordon was in jail and she places the blame firmly on his shoulders.  She has made a life for herself promoting environmental issues for a non-profit organisation (no points for subtlety).

Michael Douglas is the film’s biggest positive.  He won an Academy Award playing Gordon Gekko in the original Wall Street and you can tell he had fun reprising the role.  There’s a wonderful line (which I won’t spoil) when he speaks to an old rival (Josh Brolin) about telling the truth and telling lies.  I’ve got to find a way of weaving into one of my own conversations.

Whilst it was great to catch up with Gordon once again, I didn’t think much of these new characters.  I wasn’t sure what to make of Jacob.  He introduces himself to Gordon and tries to repair the gap between father and daughter.  Why is he doing this?  Is it for the benefit of his fiancé?  Or is he more interested in having Gordon as a mentor?  Jacob is portrayed as a nice guy (he’s successful, good looking, loves green energy) but I wasn’t convinced.

There were others players in this ensemble who I found puzzling.  What did Winnie see in Jacob?  Given her family problems, I couldn’t understand why she’d marry someone so much like her father.  Jacob’s mother (Susan Sarandon) pops into the story for a handful of scenes but for what purpose?  Is it just to show the effect that the collapse of the housing market has had on people?  Don’t we know this already?

While on the subject, the film fails to get a message across in relation to the global financial crisis.  All it offers are a couple of lame scenes where the big banks get together and discuss a bail out policy with the U.S. treasury.  This could have been a gritty, realistic drama but the writers have gone with a safer, more commercial option.  The unsatisfying ending is proof of that.