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He Said - He Said ... Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

As Gordon Gekko says in Wall Street, "It's all about bucks, kid. The rest is conversation." Now that Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the sequel to the 1987 film has hit the top spot at the box office, it's time to give the movie a classic "He Said - He Said" analytical break down. This week features Calhoun "Seriously, that's it?" Kersten and myself, Nick "Greed is good...?" Allen, as we try to chart the critical worth of this unexpected yet possibly relevant sequel. click here to read Jeff Bayer's TSR of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

PLOT: Greed is back and so is Gordon Gekko (Douglas). Jacob (LaBeouf) is a young trader who is up and coming and also in love with Gekko’s daughter. Jacob is looking for a mentor and a shot at dominating the financial world while the economy may collapse.

As always, we recommend checking out the film before reading, as all aspects of the film are fair game. And be sure to leave us your own thoughts on the film in the comments section below!

Allen Said

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is not exactly the type of sequel with an existence that can be explained by Gordon Gekko's motto, "Greed is good." In fact, the existence of another Wall Street movie seems warranted by our economic times. This film acknowledges this by making as many parallels of this fictional story to our horrific reality as it can. For example, the villain of the original popular 1986 movie, Gordon Gekko, has become an embodiment of how the economic mindset may have changed, but more importantly, how it will always stay the same.

The problem with this Wall Street sequel is that it lacks the same punch as the original. It's best feature might be its connection to the real heroes and villains of our times, and the pivotal events that have left us wherever we financially are now. But the script still speaks directly to a certain audience - though keeping up with the story is possible, understanding money talk must come in handy in fully getting the big picture.

As much as I wanted to enjoy this film, I feel its experience slowly seeping away from my memory, something that happens with mediocre, or at least unimpressive movies. As they say, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps isn't bad, but it isn't great either.

What do you think? And what/who do you consider to be the movie's best asset?

Kersten Said

I honestly couldn’t agree more. For a movie that preaches about the evils of our money driven economy, this seemed like the easiest and cheapest way to make a big buck. It had the potential to be a hard hitting look about the state of America’s world of finance, but instead, it seemed to get off on speaking over the audience’s head (or maybe it’s just the unemployed 23 year old art student in me that doesn’t get hedge funds?) and twisting and turning. However to say that Wall Street: Money never Sleeps fails on the political forefront is to ignore some of it’s bigger crimes against humanity.

The story beyond the stock market scenes was perhaps the most intolerable for me. Shia LaBeouf will never stop being the kid from Even Stevens for me and even if he does manage to work past that, he’s still got some serious atoning to do for Transformers: revenge of the Fallen. I saw a glimmer of hope in his performance in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints but that’s pretty much gone now. Even somebody I’d like to think knows better, such as Carey Mulligan, seems complicit in this paycheck movie. Their scenes together felt forced (shocking, considering the romance off the set) and I began to wonder about halfway through if Mulligan had another look besides “doe eyed and hurt.”

In the end, it’s difficult to know what I was supposed to take away from this movie. It’s okay to sign on for a movie and get millions if you’re doing it to better represent the people that don’t have millions of dollars? Is there anything worse than rich Hollywood folks pretending to be just another average Joe who’s been hit hard by the recession or the stock market’s decline? No, seriously, that’s not rhetorical. Is there?

Allen Said

Whoa, there. Yes, this movie does have Sex and the City 2-like moments of extravagance, which are even more frustrating considering where one thinks this movie's heart should be. It certainly has the big budget look and sharpness to present the world of luxury and wealthy, but at what cost? I am pretty sure our brains were both hurting at this thought.

However - Mulligan's performance is not just "doe eyed and hurt." There's more to her sadness in the movie than just a simple teary-eyed face, and she stood out as the best performance in the film because she could do such a task so believably. A lot of the dramatic gravity of the movie is focused on her, with her relationship with two selfish Wall Street counterparts who just happen to the most important relationships in her life. With this being said, I didn't feel anything forced. Especially when they were happy with one another, it felt quite authentic. Just look at how she wakes him up in the first scene!

With a lot of his Hollywood boy scout badges earned by being a whippersnapper running away from evil technology, (Transformers and Eagle Eye) LaBeouf does a decent job here in a realm that requires equal intensity, but less physical work. He looks like the next Wall Street hotshot, and his twitchy nature is put to good use when things fall apart.

But, the real problem - Michael Douglas. It's interesting that the story decides to put him in the background for this movie, so that Brolin and LaBeouf can bicker while being observed by the almighty Gekko. I know that in Wall Street he was a quite quotable, just watch five minutes of Boiler Room to find that out. But here he becomes Bumper Sticker Confucius. It is astounding that every line of his dialogue doesn't begin with "Gekko Say," as followed by some metaphor or strange comparison. In his first speech, the script gives Gekko a warm welcome back to the philosophy of finance. But by the end of the movie we're overdosed. And his best tidbit? Paraphrasing: "Money is a bitch. It never sleeps, and some morning, it might be gone." Quick, someone get a movie title!

Something I did like about the movie was the story's fluidity. Whether I fully understood exactly was going on, (good call on the hedge fund diss) it seemed the story was trying to maintain an energy that would provide some thrill for even the economically illiterate. Jake's journey had some surprising bumps on the road, especially with the fickle appearances of Gekko. While this movie did have, "Important Charaters Just Appear On The Street Syndrome" there were enough "surprises" or shifts to keep things moving, instead of just keeping the financial movie a ruin of stock boredom.

What did you like about the film, if anything?

Kersten Said

Alright Nick, keep up with me here. I liked the idea of it. I thought it’s execution was sleek well put together, but I guess what it boils down to is what you said about Gekko.

It’s been a while since Wall Street, but Gordon Gekko is arguably one of the most memorable villains in recent movie history. My question is, what happened? Yes, I know he went to prison and everything but the man that Oliver Stone puts at the forefront of Wall Street felt like he was incapable of changing. What I was hoping was that this movie would focus on was how the economic world is changing and Gekko’s inability to change with it. Instead, what I was treated to was a bunch of unnecessary twists and turns to deliver a semi-sincere after school special message at the film’s close.

Oliver Stone and company are too busy patting themselves on the backs with all their self-congratulatory cameos to say anything worthwhile, at least for me. I wanted the same level of hard-hitting cynicism that’s so characteristic of the first film. That being said, I’ll admit that I walked into this movie expecting a sure thing and instead what I got was a muddled heap of characters that were more boring than anything else.

Personally, I’d rather dislike the main character than just feel nothing, but as the credits began to roll, I looked around at the audience and couldn’t help but ask myself, “Seriously? That’s it?” Maybe it’s still my anger at Shia, but I do agree that he looked the part, but unfortunately, that’s where the comparison between his character and real Wall Street brokers ended for me. Maybe it’s the fact that he always seems to speak in the same three methods of delivery (straight man, worried/angry, and comedic) but whatever it was, it didn’t work for me.

With a lead character that I could care less about as he teeters between good and evil, Stone has a problem from the get go, at least for me.

Allen Said

It doesn't seem like it's the lingo or environment that doesn't work for us. While we may not be subscribers to Forbes Magazine, it's more that we notice a "meh" film when we see one. And maybe even forget about it quickly afterward.

It was a nice idea to do a sequel to Wall Street, but now I see the films as somewhat unrelated. The first one was quite striking with its characters, performances, and economically thrilling storyline. This one has none of the above, despite its potential, and all of the forces working behind it.

If I were to score this one, I'd give it a 5/10. But I'm not recommending it to anyone on the grounds that it will entertain them. Instead, I've only told a friend to see it because he's a Gekko-junkie. What can I say? Some people just like watching lots of money not being put towards a good cause.

Any final thoughts before we wrap this thing up?

Kersten Said

What it is for me is that considering this is a movie about the dire state of the economy, I gotta say that this isn't one of those movies I'd recommend people spending their hard earned money on. I agree with you that this movie works better in theory than in practice.

Still, I think a lot of my reaction to this movie has to do with my age or at least my experience in the "real world" where money talks. Now, I'm not saying this as a person with money, I'm saying this as the unemployed college grad who's working his ass off to get his masters and trying to make ends meet. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps pretty much promises a happy ending. Winnie's goodie two shoes act pays off, all is well and Oliver Stone finds another reason to include Susan Sarandon in a scene where everyone's all smiles. My question? Where's my happy ending? Well, maybe not me specifically, but from where I'm standing, the economy is still in a sad state of affairs so this fairy tale ending that Wall Street 2 tries desperately to make work has no place in this chapter of American history, at least for me.

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