Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

To say that “money never sleeps” is to be clever, and possibly profound, although logically inaccurate, as “money” never lives either. It’s also cheesy and kind of lame, and in the case of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street sequel, entirely inconsequential.

What’s in a name? In Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, it’s everything. In this title we find a sequel, and with it fond reminiscence – of 1987 era Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko; of a dangerous, edgy moral thriller; of Hollywood classicality. We also recognize a dated setting, a financial capital breaking down from the big money steroid injection some twenty years ago. We find chest-puffing posture, an out-of-touch attempt at being cool with tough talk that really means nothing (Air never sleeps. Water never sleeps. Death never sleeps. Look at what a big thinker I am!). So it should be no surprise that the movie itself lacks the edge, the freshness, the sparked ambition of its predecessor.

You can sum it all up in the casting of Shia LaBeouf as Jake Moore, the hungry but earnest money man at the heart of Stone’s film. LaBeouf isn’t a bad actor, and he doesn’t give a bad performance. But he’s a clean cut good guy, the kid you bring home to meet the parents. He lacks the sleaze of his precursor Charlie Sheen, and effectively changes the whole film.

In Shia’s Wall Street, we get a whimsical soundtrack anchored by aged former Talking Head David Byrne, singing heartfelt tunes about home, family and happiness. In Shia’s Wall Street, the “hungry young trader” character is a crusader for good who’s greed only encompasses funding for eco-friendly power sources. In Shia’s Wall Street, the kid already has it all – the $10 million penthouse, the pretty environmentalist fiancé, the $1 million bonus check – and the worst thing he can do to risk it is go for a walk in the park with Gordon Gecko.

In the past, this would be like walking with the devil, but Gordon Gecko 2.0 is decidedly less devious. He’s a worn down old man, still money hungry, still “evil”, but only because he needs to live up to his name. He’s not actually the villain here, because in Shia’s Wall Street there really isn’t one. There is only money, and money is bad, and blah blah blah. Twenty years ago, Wall Street was a sharp warning. Now it’s a parent looking to dish advice over Sunday brunch, and wrap things up with a hug.

The direction is that of a man trying too hard. The split screens, the super-speed shots of New York (because in a movie called Wall Street, we surely need a constant reminder of where we are), the ghostly images of brokers past. Stone is like a kid playing with iMovie, packing in all the magical editing tricks. I’m surprised there wasn’t a wipe cut (but there WAS a James Bond circle fade).

For good measure, he mashes a couple movies together too. The first act is actually a prologue, and in general the movie bounces between environmentalist crusader and a ripped from the headlines MSNBC report. The characters are trivial, role players lost in the message(s). Golden boy image aside, LeBeouf is strong and active. Douglas’s Gecko has lost his snakeskin charm, but the actor finds comfort in these old shoes, and the occasional spark. Rising star Carey Mulligan plays his daughter/Shia’s fiancé, but isn’t really anything more than those titles, so there isn’t a lot going on there. Josh Brolin, Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon all pop in for similar role playing, and are all fine. But nothing can save this movie from being a general waste of time.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps might make for an adequate rainy day time killer once it hits Netflix, something to hit the couch and zone out to. Just know that while money never sleeps, when you watch this film you might wind up doing just that.

1 comment:

LOUIS.C said...

hey there
just read your blog think its witty and generally great
i myself have made a film blog and at the moment are epically failing to get anywhere with a solid following of 7 which mainly consists of myself and my sister
would appreciate if you started following as i'm trying to give a different take on current films and old classics and i'd like your opinion
will be following your blog
mine is http://lcmoviereviews.blogspot.com/


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