Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

I reviewed the new versions of Karate Kid and Nightmare on Elm Street without seeing the originals. I leapt bravely into watching Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer without having seen the first flick. Now I'm reviewing the sequel to Wall Street without having seen the first movie. (I did see Dances with Wolves before watching Avatar, though.)

Michael Douglas (Gordon "Greed is Good" Gekko, no relation to the Geico Gekko) actually gives a very brief but still helpful little summary of his past adventures, though frankly I wasn't sure which events were shown in the last movie and which happened in between. See, what really confused me going in is the fact that in the first movie, Gordon has a son and a wife (possibly an ex, or at least soon to be an ex). Now he has a daughter, namely Winnie (Carey Mulligan, Kathy of the semi-mythical Never Let Me Go), who was apparently around the entire time but was just being very quiet for some reason. She isn't in the credits, anyway.

Winnie is now working at a small liberal website called Frozen Truth. There is a website called that, but it seems to be a fairly strange blog sort of thing, not the socio-political website in the movie. I was also saddened to realize that even if, by some miracle, I manage to have ten or twelve employees helping me review movies someday, this will still be considered a small website. I mean, I know perfectly well it will always be only me here, and it will never be anything but a small site, but still.

Her boyfriend Jake Moore (Shia LeBeouf, Eagle Eye, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) is a Wall Street guy just like dear old Dad, except he specializes in green energy stocks and investments and is therefore okay, it seems. I guess one cancels out the other.

Dear old Dad has just been released after serving almost eight years in the federal penitentiary. No one's there to meet him, because something terrible happened to his son and his newly-created daughter hates him for it. (Like I said, I don't know what was shown in the last flick and what happened in between, so I'm being even more vague than usual.) So he does what any ex-white collar criminal would do -- he writes a book, has signings at Borders, and goes on the lecture circuit.

Meanwhile, Jake's mentor and boss at Keller Zabel Investments, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella, The Box, poor man) is in serious trouble, thanks to some very nasty rumors about his company's stability. He wants his fellow investment firms to help bail him out, with the government's help; but this movie is set in 2008, before federal bailouts became all the rage, so no one wants to pitch in. When Lou ends up sadly dead, Jake wants to strike back at whoever was responsible for said rumors.

When temptation strikes, look for the little devil on your shoulder. In this case, the devil is a dead ringer for Gordon Gekko. He isn't really the main character here, and I'm thinking maybe he wasn't the first time around, either. He's the bad spirit who shows up to tempt you in your weakest moments, making it just a little easier for you to turn to the dark side. Winnie knows this and repeatedly warns Jake, but Jake, being young and foolish and in the market for a new father figure, thinks that Gordon has reformed and can help both his revenge and his career.

Revenge, as it happens, is a dish best served to Bretton James (Josh Brolin, Jonah Hex, poor man), the man most responsible for the rumors. They sort of retroactively write him into the first movie -- Gordon mentions him as an occasional partner of his from the bad old days. Jake now has Bretton's attention, as he puts it, and that's not such a good thing.

Then there's a lot of stuff with insider trading, Swiss banks, interest rates, backstabbing, and moral hazard. I didn't quite get most of it. About all I can tell you is that everyone in the movie does bad things to some degree. Winnie is about the nicest person, but she still has an awfully sharp sense of humor that isn't very tactful. She manages to insult Jake's mother (Susan Sarandon, in the scariest outfit I've seen since Gamer), and some of the things she says to Jake, which I'm sure are meant to be friendly teasing, sound pretty mean.

In other words, I didn't understand many of the gory financial details of the plot, and I didn't especially like any of the characters (though admittedly there are several you're not supposed to like, so there it was okay). That makes this a two and three-quarter idol flick. I would've gone for three, but the ending was... well, it was an ending, that's about all I can say for it. I guess I shouldn't be too harsh about endings, though, since I always have a terrible time trying to figure out a good way to wrap up these reviews.

Shia and Michael pose for the movie poster


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