Movie Review: “Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps”
Serving an eight-year sentence on the charges of insider trading and securities fraud, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is released in 2001 with no one to greet him at the door of freedom. Fast forward to 2008, Gordon has milked his experience, and is now a sought-after author (“Is Greed Good?”) and speaker. Never missing a beat, he foretells the great financial crisis of 2008 and promotes his book in front of the “ninja generation” (lost generation facing chronic unemployment).
Douglas is back at the top of his game with his sharp and smarmy Gekko persona. He projects an authoritative presence that dominates the screen shared with estranged daughter, journalist Winnie (Carey Mulligan) and soon-to-be fiance, stockbroker Jake Moore (Shia LeBouf).
Winnie blames Gordon for what he’s done and the loss of her brother who overdosed and died. LeBouf (who wouldn’t be on my roster for playing this role), known for his blockbuster “Transformer” and “Indiana Jones” movies, doesn’t pull off the “financial whiz” look believably. But he’s surprisingly good with his love-hate dynamic with Gordon and shrewd trading efforts in bridging a father-and-daughter reconciliation. Young and idealist, he specializes in green energy and idolizes his mentor, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella).
Mulligan plays off Douglas well as the emotional anchor in the relationship. When it comes to her infamous father, she knows that nothing is straightforward or simple.
Has prison changed Gordon? Does he truly want to reconcile with her daughter? When confronted with dollar signs to the tune of $100 million, is time really the primary asset in life or is it too high of a price? What does Winnie know that Jake doesn’t? Can Jake be trusted or does he have his own agenda?
In the meantime, years of reckless excess and abandonment slowly but surely spiral Wall Street out-of-control. The Manhattan skyline is marvelously outlined, following the ups and downs of the market. Greed gets greedier (and apparently legal) because everyone is now “drinking from the same koolaid.” Mortgage-backed securities, leveraged debts, government bailout make their way into our vocabularies.
“Pious piranha” Bretton James (Josh Brolin) pushes Zabel’s firm over the edge, along with its chief. He offers to buy out the shares at $3 each during a terse Federal Reserve meeting, plunging from $79 per share in the month prior. Together with Gordon, Jake worms its way into Bretton’s side and plots for revenge (although it can be said that his illegal dealing is ultimately his own downfall).
The complexity of the transactions may not be easily understood in laymen terms (then again, had they made sense we probably wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place!), but the story centers on money manipulation as much as family relationships. “Wall Street” may not rock the charts, but it’s pretty much right on the money as far as entertainment value goes.