When Oliver Stone first introduced Michael Douglas's Gordon Gekko to cinemagoers in the '80s, the conniving corporate raider spouted terse and memorable soundbites such as "lunch is for wimps" and "greed, for want of a better word, is good". More than 20 years later Stone and Douglas have resurrected the character for sequel Money Never Sleeps amid a rocky financial climate. Now, Gekko appears to be a reformed man - greed to him isn't good, it's a disease. It wouldn't be a Stone film, though, if Gekko's road to redemption was a smooth one.
The story revolves around Gekko getting out of prison (which provides a neat joke involving a brick-sized mobile phone) and attempting to rebuild his life with his reputation and bank account in tatters. He's estranged from daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) and still in mourning over the death of his son Rudy. Winnie, meanwhile, has found happiness running left-leaning website The Frozen Truth and dating slick broker Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf). Jacob and Gordon eventually cross paths and set in motion a plan that'll be beneficial to both of them: Jacob will get Gekko and Winnie to reconcile, while Gekko will help Jacob get revenge on Bretton James (Josh Brolin), the Wall Street don responsible for the death of his mentor.
It's these mentor/protégé dynamics that pack the biggest emotional punches in Money Never Sleeps. LaBeouf's character is fatherless and, as the movie's anchor, he navigates through relationships with Frank Langella's Lewis Zabel and, with more difficulty, Gekko and James. Brolin is the perhaps the film's secret weapon, slotting into the role Gekko filled in the original with ruthless aplomb. It's this push and pull with Jacob/James/Gekko that's the most compelling aspect, but it gets undone as the movie descends into melodrama in the closing act. Stone ends his movie too late - 15 minutes earlier and it would have been a bleak, nihilistic and daring denouement. Instead, Hollywood sentimentality takes over as Stone seeks a feel-good pay-off that veers off course from what preceded it.
This Wall Street may not have the bite or quotability of the original, but it's slick, enjoyable and Douglas is riveting as he revisits his career-defining role. The hair may have greyed but Gekko has lost none of his duplicitous, snake-like nature. Like the original it often gets bogged down in financial gobbledegook speak and obsesses about yuppiedom, though thankfully it spares us from a moment akin to the infamous 'Bud Fox fills up his apartment' sequence. A Brian Eno/David Byrne score and a reprisal of Talking Heads's 'This Must Be The Place' lend a sense of nostalgia as Stone assembles a competent, affectionate homage to the 1987 incarnation.
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