FILM RATING: 3 stars
There are a lot of great moments in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010), director Oliver Stone’s sequel to the landmark 80s film Wall Street (1987). I wish I could say that all those great moments add up to more, but they don’t. Wall Street 2 is a good solid movie and well worth seeing for anyone who has seen the first one, but I feel like it lives a bit in the shadow of the original, like so many sequels. A few rare sequels that I think outshine their masterful predecessors are The Bourne Supremacy (2004), Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Superman II (1980), and Clear and Present Danger (1994). But those sequels are the exception to the rule to say the least. I give the original Wall Street 3.5 out of 5 stars and the sequel 3 out of 5 stars. Both movies have scenes that are a perfect 5, but the narrative that wants to tie these unbelievable scenes together in both movies doesn’t quite work. Something doesn’t quite gel. Regardless, both movies are well worth watching, and the timing for the sequel is perfect. I saw it in the theater on Friday, opening day. I’m curious to see the opening week box office numbers to see how others responded to it. The trailers were perfect and got me extremely psyched to see the film right when it came out. And there are some great scenes in the film not revealed in the trailer.
Shia LaBeouf is excellent as the young whipper-snapper protege replacement for Charlie Sheen, along with Carey Mulligan as his love interest and the daughter of Gordon Gekko. Josh Brolin plays the new 2000’s Gordon Gekko replacement bad guy with perfect ease. And Gekko himself is reprised by the great Michael Douglas. There’s no question in my mind that Douglas deserved his Oscar win for Best Actor as Gekko in the original Wall Street. It was and still is the role that defines him in my mind. The Academy got it right with that award for that particular role and not another. No one ever wonders who else could have been Gekko. Douglas owns this role. And we see flashes of that same brilliance 23 years later in Wall Street 2. The thing about film sometimes is that it has to age like wine. It might be bold and exciting when its young, but its true impact and depth can’t always be appreciated until years later after it has sat awhile. The original Wall Street is now clearly an iconic and defining film from the height (and end) of the Reagon 80s…that “greed is good” time in our history that brought us to the collapse now in 2008-2010 when greed is no longer just good, it’s legal, as Douglas quips in the new movie. I recently re-watched the original film and loved getting back into that time of cell phones the size of sub sandwiches.
What I’m left with from both of these movies is a realization that money and greed really aren’t the game that’s played on Wall Street. The game is “King of the Hill”. Money is simply what’s used to keep score in the game.