What will attract audiences to Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is curiosity.
Michael Douglas is reprising his 1987 Oscar and Golden Globe-winning Wall Street role. A chance to see one of filmdom’s great villains again is a treat.
Or is it?
Director Oliver Stone picks up Gordon Gekko’s life after years in jail for financial malfeasance. It’s begins at the dawn of the Wall Street meltdown that led to the current recession. Once out of jail, Gekko writes a book and while on a promotion tour meets and befriends his estranged daughter’s finance.
Transformers Shia LeBeouf tries on a grown-up role and plays the fiance, Jake Moore. He wants revenge on Bretton James, who brought down his beloved mentor’s company and caused his death. Josh Brolin — a new Stone favorite — is James.
Gekko plays quid-pro-quo. Moore wants advice on how to get revenge. In exchange, Moore helps him reconnect with his daughter.
While Stone’s film isn’t awful, his paint-by-numbers sequel doesn’t have the power and intensity of the original. His fictional characters give you the basics of what might have happened in back room deals at the end of 2007 as banks and the federal government scrambled to save their butts first, and the economy second.
He could have painted a clearer picture and given his plot more teeth.
Stone does mix some fun into his multi-plot movie. Charlie Sheen — Douglas’ Wall Street co-star — has a funny cameo and Gekko’s get-out-of-jail scene is hilarious.
Other than Douglas, none of the main characters really shine. LeBeouf does decent work and so does Carrie Mulligan as Gekko’s daughter. Brolin who rocked as George W. Bush in Stone’s biopic W makes a so-so bad guy.
Stone should have used 95-year old Eli Wallach more. The former Ugly from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly looks like a toothy old vampire, a perfect picture of how many view those who caused what is now being called the Great Recession. Also of note is Frank Langella who plays Moore’s mentor.
Teeth in the plot also applies to Douglas’ Gekko. A villain as nasty as Gordon Gekko comes along once in a lifetime. A chance to play the character again and to add more depth and dimensions is irresistible.
Douglas is a great actor and is up to the task. He’s superb, but what Stone does with his character and the plot aren’t. Gekko has lost a step or two in the 23-year span between the original and now. He’s still an untrustworthy slime ball, but one that is too predictable.
It’s all not all Douglas’ fault. Stone lets his best-ever character down. Instead of focusing on the very interesting Gekko, Stone makes him part of the focus of a financial soap opera.
Then he adds insult to injury with an unfortunate and cheap, sappy Hollywood ending.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, some language. It opens Friday, Sept. 24 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.