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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Review: WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS


The most surprising quality about Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is how much of a feel good movie this is; something you could not tell from the poster above or the current world economy. Yet this movie, unlike the first installment of the franchise, belies that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps



Like its predecessor Money Never Sleeps is a portrait of the capitalist culture of its time. Last time around Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) faced trail for unethical trading; Gekko was part of the Regan generation of stockbrokers who got rich really fast as economic barriers fell apart; he once said, “greed is good” and faced 10 years in prison for it. [1] Now it is early 2008, Gekko has been out of prison, the real estate market has crashed and the economy is teetering (the bank bailout hasn’t happened yet); this is the situation in which Jake Moore (Shia LeBeouf) has made his first million dollar paycheck. Like Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) in the first movie, Moore is an ambitious, cunning, young stockbroker although a little bit na├»ve; he also happens to be engaged to Gekko’s estranged daughter Minnie (Carrey Mulligan).

Jake works for an old-school stock broking house named Keller-Zabel. I say “old-school” because the film requires us to believe Keller-Zabel plays fair (at least fairer) than its competitors and because they invest in alternative energy. Alas Bretton James, the CEO of a competitive film Churchill spreads rumors of Keller-Zabel’s instability and brings the firm down. Louis Zabel (Frank Langella) if forced to sell his company for a penny price and commits suicide the next morning. Moore is left in an awkward position; he wants to get back at James but he is now out of a job and the only one willing to hire the young stockbroker is Bretton James. Moore enlists Gordon Gekko to help him get back a James for bringing down his firm and Gekko uses Moore to amend loose ends with Minne. One would think this is a partnership made in heaven but do not forget this is a film where everyone, especially Gordon Gekko, has an ace up their sleeve and where everyone is in it for the win; after all this is Wall Street.

Gekko remains the most interesting character in the film, and perhaps a much more interesting incarnation than in the previous. In a brilliant monologue he talks about the Great Depression and how back then CEOs & CFOs jumped out of buildings when the market crashed; Gekko sees Zabel’s suicide as an “honorable death”; it is the people like Bretton James who hide their shame behind their profits who he, and consequentially the film, sees as amoral. Even though Gekko is by no means a “good guy”, we do understand the logic behind why he thinks those like him (who do it for the chase and thrill) are more morally grounded than those like James (who do it for the money).

It is not easy to reincarnate such an iconic character, 20 years after its creation but it is much harder to maintain its iconic statue when the character has undergone so much changes. Douglass pulls it off though and LeBeouf doesn’t do that bad a job apprenticing from a veteran actor. But the real credit goes to Frank Langella and Carrie Mulligan. Langella does a brilliant as Louis Zabel he is only onscreen for the first 20 or so minutes of the film but the plight of his character and his composure set the tone and moral standing for the whole film. And Mulligan is faced with the challenge portraying the film’s most one-dimensional character and end up bringing quite a bit of life to it. After her brilliant performance in An Education and now this film, her career will certainly be quite interesting to follow.

Also Rodrigo Prieto, the films cinematographer, deserves a standing ovation. The photography in this film is beautiful. I see a possible award; this is some of the best imagery I’ve seen in years.

Overall Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a solid film. I am just concerned over whom the producers where attempting to target this at. But its feel good ending makes it almost a film for everyone, and I feel this shouldn't be for everyone. Since not everyone and certainly not your average moviegoer will understand half of what the characters are talking about and as a consequence half the plot. But if you do happen to see it you’ll enjoy.

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