My knowledge of the financial sector is about as extensive as Lady Gaga’s knowledge of clothing that you can’t either smoke or eat. This has to be part of the reason behind the public anger at the bankers in this time of economic instability which, as most people will tell you, they basically caused. It’s easier to understand humanitarian disasters and genocidal atrocities than sub-prime debt, insider trading and the illusory mathematical games played with billions of theoretical figures on a daily basis by the evil dickhead wizards of Wall Street and elsewhere. What fuels and motivates these people is interesting and makes a pretty involving drama in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Having not seen the original, Oliver Stone’s sequel comes at a pertinent point in modern history. It would have been even more powerful were its timing a little better and its narrative not quite so peculiarly wishy-washy in its attempts to portray a world where money is synonymous with power, pain and pretentious suits.
Saucer-eyed everydouche Shia LaBeouf plays Jake Moore, a young Wall Street banker who is as ferociously driven as he is intelligent. Working for the investment banking firm of mentor Louis Zabel (Frank Langella) he watches the cutthroat world of the stock market press in on the old hand and the swift collapse of the organisation leaves him without a father figure or a job. He catches the attention of Bretton James (Josh Brolin) with his ballsy retribution for his former firm’s implosion and quickly gets hired to organise energy investments for another fictional organisation with Chinese client-winning the number one priority.
Moore happens to be engaged to liberal blogger Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan) whose infamous father Gordon (Michael Douglas) has been released from prison and is touring a new book called ‘Is Greed Good?’ Moore meets Gordon with the initial intention of reuniting him with his estranged, bitter daughter, but soon the electric cult of personality that encircles this effigy of capitalist corruption draws the youngster into deep, morally questionable water.
Each actor has decided to give you value for money in this movie, and their thespian organs are producing yellulose and grimaceulin by the bucketful. However, you get the feeling that without the dramatic delivery much of the actual drama would dissipate as the muddy plot thickens. Thankfully the performances are universally enjoyable, from Susan Sarandon’s hassled property-peddling New Jersey mother right to Douglas’ edgy, impersonal role as serpentine, oleaginous uber-arsehole Gordon Gekko. LeBeouf and Mulligan put on acceptable turns as the mismatched lovers, and Brolin is debonair and sharkish when playing what is essentially a walking ego with an art collection. Stone’s direction fits in with the construction of this melodrama, with nippy editing and the simultaneous mishmashing of shots bringing a 24-esque style to certain sequences.
Ultimately it is the plot that lets down the movie, although it is by no means off-putting enough to destroy the whole thing. While it is not necessarily confusing, it is certainly pieced together in a way that leaves the viewer wondering why you should care about any of the characters or feel tense in the forcefully tense-ified portions. A little long, a little lighter than the makers would admit, but acted until the hilt of drama’s sword is tickling the audience’s stomach, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is both fun and infuriating. Most importantly of all it is watchable.