Usually, you don’t have to wait 23 years for a sequel. (Heck, only 16 years elapsed between The Godfather II & The Godfather III and also between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace). But apparently Oliver Stone was just waiting until the time was right to follow up his 1987 classic Wall Street. For the younger crowd, it may have been a little too long (I wept as I overheard some kids in the theater admit they didn’t even know there was a first Wall Street), but for those of use who grew up quoting “Greed is good.” and “How many yachts can you water-ski behind?”, welcome home.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is like a family reunion set on… well, Wall Street. Despite more than two decades having passed since the original, the characters are just as strong, the story is just as entertaining, and Michael Douglas hasn’t missed a step as one of the 80s most iconic villains.
The story begins in 2001, with corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Douglas) walking out of jail after serving an eight-year stint for the skullduggery he committed in the first film. Flash forward to 2008, and Gekko is making the rounds on the lecture circuit, the successful author of the bestseller Is Greed Good?
Meanwhile, Jacob Moore (Shia LeBeouf) is living large as a young, super-successful investment banker. The twist, though, is that he’s dating Gekko’s estranged daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan), who wants nothing to do with her corrupt dad.
Jacob is a rising star at Keller/Zabel, a big-time investment firm that has just become the first victim of the 2008 economic collapse. His mentor, the bow-tied and suspendered Lou Zabel (Frank Langella), warns him that it’s time to take his hefty bonus check and walk away, but Jacob is more determined to exact revenge on the Gekko-ish Bretton James (Josh Brolin), the richer-than-God dirtball responsible for the fall of the house of Keller/Zabel.
So what does Jacob do? Why, he turns to his girlfriend’s daddy for advice, of course (…without telling her. Oops.). All of a sudden, Gekko’s the good guy, Bretton’s the new Gekko, and Jacob is Bud Fox, reincarnated. And with that, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps becomes a long-lost friend that you spend two great hours catching up with– reminiscing about the old days, remembering all the fun that you had last time you were together.
The screenplay by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff occasionally gets a little too bogged-down in Wall Street-ese, but the Gekkovian bon mots are abundant (“It’s not about the money, it’s about the game”), and once you cut through all the financial speak, it’s just as compelling a story as the first time around.
Oliver Stone, thankfully, spares us the sermons and conspiracy theories he’s become known for in recent years, and just offers up a solid film that entertains from start to finish. LeBeouf (who’s really the star of the show) is solid as Jacob, surprisingly able to hold his own when sharing the screen with Douglas. The always-great Mulligan shines yet again, and Brolin plays Bretton with just the right amount of sleaziness to avoid becoming a caricature.
But let’s be honest– assuming you’re old enough to remember Bluestar Airlines, you’re here to see Gekko, and Douglas is simply brilliant. Sure GG’s a little softer around the edges (federal prison will do that to a fella), but underneath it all, he’s the same old guy, and it’s a performance that makes Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps terrific fun and well-worth the (long) wait.
…that and the priceless cameo by Charlie Sheen, briefly reprising his role as Bud Fox.