Following on from V for Vendetta, I caught Oliver Stone's 'Money Never Sleeps' the long anticipated sequel to infamous 80s Yuppy flick 'Wall Street'. It seemed like fate was leading me down a path of films that critique society and our 'lust' for money. Here Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is back but seemingly 'cured' of his love of money, he exits prison and starts a tour of motivational talks about how greed it no longer good, but rather 'legal'. Hmm... from the moment he leaves prison and stands alone and unimportant in the world you know this is another Gekko rouse.
I would summarise the plot but it left me scratching my head. I'm all for films that flatter the audience by assuming they're intelligent enough to follow complicated plots (thank you Christopher Nolan) but this movie needed one of two things, either for protagonist Shia LeBeuff to slow down his zippy NuwYourka dialogue, or to hand out a guide to financial services abbreviations. I do not, nor ever will, work in 'the city' and I found it pretty hard to follow the details of the tale. And a moral tale it is - I know that because it's Oliver Stone - but I'm not wholly sure I understood the lesson objective.
So this is what I took away from it. Gecko is not the worst thing in Wall Street, since he's been inside a new, super rich, super immoral breed of b*stard bankers (Bretton James played by Josh Brolin) has taken over. This breed like to use a lot of war metaphors to show that it's not about the money, just the thrill of conquering others. Jake (Shia LaBeouff) is a plucky trader, who's impressive money making talents are used solely to fund green energy, that little halo of his doesn't stop shining there, as he spends the film seeking financial revenge for the death of his mentor Louis Zabel (Frank Langella). His savvy city skills are blindsided by a smooth taking Gekko who manipulates him to take a job with mega bank run by Bretton all part of a bigger plan to reuinte with his daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan), Jake's fiance.
There's some weird things which are never fully resolved in this plot:
1. The idealistic, righteous Winnie hates her father and doesn't trust money, yet she agrees to marry a Wall Street trader - Freud I'll leave that up to you
2. Jake's mother pops up occasionally (played by Susan Saranadon) as a strange metaphor for victims of the property boom, to show how the 'little' people have greed too.
3. Gekko is supposed to be a terrifying metaphor for all that's wrong with the finance world - but at the end he's a soppy Granddad, smiling and cooing at family BBQs, which kind of crushes the critique.
4. There's too much 'bad daddy' symbolism to keep up with: Gekko and Jake, Jake and Louis, Louis and Bretton. It's a roundabout of relationships that was dizzying to focus on.
5. Charlie Sheen rocks up reviving his role as 'Bud Fox' for a swift cameo to show he's now rich... and bland, and boring, and incapable of acting as demonstrated by his stunted reaction to Gekko. He should have stayed in the 80s.
This is a director who has focussed on exposing the political edge of America, but like Gekko, he clearly has mellowed with time. As sadly, for a film where 'money never sleeps', Stone presents a movie where there's no moral wake up call for any of the characters and their cavalier actions.