Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps follows on from the wonderful, original Wall Street, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) sneaking into the business affections of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) by bringing him a gift of his favourite Cuban cigars and Gekko returning the favour by getting him into the shady world of insider trading.
That was just the first step of the great man taking advantage of Bud and instructing him how to make money at all times of the day, hence the tagline “Money Never Sleeps“. It echoed the ‘have it all’ decade of decadence that was the ’80s, hence Gekko’s “Greed is Good” speech at Teldar Paper, the company where he became the largest shareholder. That’s just before he ingratiated himself into Bluestar Airlines, where Bud’s father, Carl (Martin Sheen) had devoted his life. Was Gordon helping them or just in it for all he can get? What do you think!
16 years on, it’s October 2001 and Gordon Gekko is getting released, along with his massive 1980s mobile phone. A voiceover from Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) talks about the ‘Cambrian Explosion’, aka the Big Bang, which happened 530 million years ago and then that we evolved 70-80 million years later. He refers to this as a bubble, something that tenuously is linked to later, describing it as how speculation causes people to buy low and sell big, but then the market bottoms out and people have to sell at a loss. Still, whatever, we then step forward another seven years to 2008.
Now having rebuilt his life, after only spending eight years in the clink, as it turns out, for insider trading and securities fraud, he’s getting himself back on the scene with his book, “Is Greed Good?”, giving lectures to accompany it. New whizz-kid on the block Jake is engrossed in a breakfast TV interview with Gekko, but his girlfriend Winnie (Carey Mulligan) picks up the remote and shuts the telly off in disgust. What’s her problem? Given that we later learn her surname is Gekko, we gather that things can’t be right in the Gekko household.
Jake gets a $1.5m bonus from his boss, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella, depicted here as the old-timer in this sequel), and blows 2/3 of that on Keller Zabel shares which is about to tank thanks to Louis underestimating the scale of his company’s bad loans. Will KZI get bailed out by the Treasury? This is clearly echoing everything that happened in real life. It’s also around then and with the lecture of Gekko’s that we witness where Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps has a lot to say about the current predicament with the recession and greedy bankers, with him exclaiming, “Greed was good… now it appears it’s legal”, referring to 125% mortgages. Indeed, it’s in that scene that Michael Douglas shows early on that he can still pull a decent acting performance out of the bag when he needs to, but later on he just becomes as tired as the idea behind this movie.
I watched this within the same week as the original, and while I loved the first one, this is a truly unnecessary sequel. Douglas ends up going through the motions and may as well turn up in each scene saying, “Hey, I’m Michael Douglas!” before exiting stage-left; Carey Mulligan gets so little to do other than being the token girlfriend, or just playing the simpering daughter role who really can’t stand her Dad as she hasn’t seen him in years; and Shia LeBeef remains one of the worst actors on the planet with zero personality.
Josh Brolin is the oddly-named Bretton James, a character who may as well be a pantomime villain, who speaks on behalf of the shareholders, offering a measly $2/share, something Louis doesn’t want any part of given that he built the company from the ground up and the arrogant old git would rather face bankruptcy. Another return in the cast is Sylvia Miles who reprises her role as the estate agent who sold Bud Fox his apartment in the original film. She’s only 78… (only?!) but looks more like 98!
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps starts off well, but after the first third it feels like they’re just going through the motions. I could say more but it would only provide spoilers, but it’s safe to say that once you know the hook of the storyline, it plays out as predictably as it can. And at around 65 minutes in, when a deal looks set to be struck, even if you were from Mars and didn’t quite understand the way things were going, a ‘vision’ appears just to hammer you over the head. Oh, pur-lease, Oliver Stone. Please credit your audience with intelligence!
If you saw the first film, you’ll probably want to see this for completeness, but if you don’t, you’re really not missing out on anything special. It’s both a missed opportunity and a complete miscalculation on Stone’s part.
Presented in the original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio and anamorphic, the picture is okay but nothing to shout about. The colours are reasonable, but while there’s a decent amount of definition that a DVD can provide, there’s just something about the picture that comes across as looking a little… dull. It’ll do the job, but just don’t expect it to ‘wow’ you. At least, if you’re watching on DVD rather than Blu-ray, at least all of Michael Douglas’ infinite wrinkles won’t be so pronounced. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 37″ Plasma screen via a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
The sound is in Dolby Digital 5.1, but it’s mostly used for dialogue and ambience. There’s very little in the way of split-surround effects, but then the original was nothing to shout about in that department, either, so it’s just more of the same – perfunctory.
For a film returning after 23 years, there must be a hell of a lot to say about it, from Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas at least…. so what do we get? A nine-minute featurette, Gordon Gekko is back, with soundbites amongst film clips. Erm… that’s it. I’m loathe to give this even 1/10 for an extra, but there’s something on the disc so I suppose I’d better. However, what’s really lame of Fox is that the Blu-ray has a few others bits and pieces such as “A Conversation with Oliver Stone” (15 mins), “Money, Money, Money: The Rise and Fall of Wall Street” (39 mins) and Deleted and Extended Scenes (28 mins, including an audio commentary track).
Why have we not got any of that on here? Because some clever dick at Fox decided a “digital copy” of the film was more important. Well it’s not. I’ve never heard of anyone using those, and even if a studio *is* going to include one it should NOT be at the expense of proper extras like the things we’re missing out on. This is really bad form, 20th Century Fox, so I’m docking a point for that. Ah, now we’re back to zero. That’s better.
Hmm… if anyone cares, there’s also an Audio Descriptive track in English. Maybe that balances it out at 1/10.
The menu is a lifeless affair with a still shot of New York and a small piece of looped theme music. There are subtitles in English and French, but one good thing I can say about the disc is that it does have a decent amout of chapters (28) which is a rarity on discs these days. So many shrink them down to around 12 when it’s not as if they’re paying by the chapter(!)
Running time: 128 minutes
Cat no: 4358111000
Released: January 2011
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, French
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Super 35)
Disc Format: DVD9
Director: Oliver Stone
Producers: Eric Kopeloff, Edward R Pressman and Oliver Stone
Screenplay: Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff
Music: Craig Armstrong
Gordon Gekko: Michael Douglas
Jake Moore: Shia LaBeouf
Bretton James: Josh Brolin
Winnie Gekko: Carey Mulligan
Louis Zabel: Frank Langella
Dr Masters: Austin Pendleton
Sylvia Moore: Susan Sarandon
Robby: John Buffalo Mailer
Audrey: Vanessa Ferlito
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.