Review: Wall Street-Money Never Sleeps
October 1, 2010 § 4 Comments
Money Can Buy You Lots of Things, But Can It Buy Back Your Soul?
‘Someone reminded me I once said “Greed is good.”Now it seems it’s legal. Because everyone is drinking the same Kool Aid.’
Michael Douglas once said that Oliver Stone has an insatiable ability to make actors unearth things within the deepest recesses of their souls.
The actor also recalled the director once quipping to him while shooting the original Wall Street: “Are you OK? Is everything fine? Are you on drugs?”
To which the actor responded, “No, Oliver. I’m fine.” “Because you’re acting like you never acted before in your life,” Stone mocked.
His politics aside, Oliver Stone— as the consummate film director— is a brilliant artist, and often a thorn in the side of many well-known actors. James Woods and Stone, for instance, had memorable duels on set, once when Woods stormed off the set of “Salvador” (in a guerrilla-controlled area of Mexico!), only for Stone to comb the town looking for him. Also, Stone and Sean Penn have apparently yet to reconcile with one another since he directed “U-Turn“ in 1997, though Stone does contend that things between them are now amicable.
Even if Stone is known to pester, provoke and irritate many of his famous talent on his films, the performances he elicits from them are often some of the best of their careers. Douglas’s performance as Gordon Gekko garnered an Oscar win. Other leading, mostly male, performances in other Stone films, like Val Kilmer in “The Doors,” Kevin Costner in “JFK” and Tom Cruise in “Born on the Fourth of July,” are so memorable, and iconic that his abilities as a director often overshadow his reputation as being a hard-ass. In fact, it demonstrates the mark of a relentless artist.
Which brings me to “Wall St: Money Never Sleeps,” Stone’s sequel to the 1987 film. Unlike taking center-stage as Gordon Gekko in the first film, Douglas chews up the scenery playing his role mostly from the periphery. As the film opens, Gekko is just released from prison for a host of white-collar crimes. Stone presents Gekko as the embodiment of a character whose vision has seeped into the core of jaded insiders and their greedy instincts. “I used to say greed is good,” Gekko lectures. “Now it seems that it’s legal.“
Interestingly, much of Gekko’s dialogue echoes Douglas’s real-life, notably that the unquenchable thirst to make more money is like a “cancer,” something Douglas literally is battling today. That makes the performance most remarkable. Douglas is now undergoing Stage 4 throat cancer treatment. Also, true to his own life, his character also has demons which involve his surrogate screen son. In real life, Cameron Douglas, Michael’s son, is serving five years in jail for drug-related charges. It seems to me that only Oliver Stone can unearth these fiendish qualities to generate a maximum artistic performance from his protagonist.
Like the original aspires to be, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” is a morality tale of a young and naïve upstart who learns how to swim with the sharks of corporate America. Perhaps not as angry and hard-hitting as some have come to expect from an Oliver Stone picture, he’s known for his conspiracy theories after all, the film offers witty insights, jokes and above all an intriguing lens into a post 9-11 and yet just as flashy and gaudy world. The film surprisingly does not veer towards its excesses. As Gekko advises the young Jake, “It’s not about the money – it’s about the game.”
Jake, as played by Shia LeBeouf, is the young Wall Street trader, who is engaged to Gekko’s daughter. Jake must also choose to which world he wants belong: taking up a business relationship with Gekko or working for rival Bretton James, whose name in itself seems allegorical, to perhaps another well- known symbol of greed.
Plot is secondary to Stone’s sweeping sequel as the zeitgeist of today’s corporate Wall Street. The vernacular is just as hard-hitting, insideresque and perhaps just a bit foreign to those not so accustomed to this world of money-laundering and racketeering. From a film perspective, it is comfortable in its own form— as a sequel. Stone throws in surprises, and cameos aplenty, that surely underscore the joys he must have had while making this movie. Despite the lighter tone of the picture, Stone still brings out the best, and most visceral in his performers; no one else could get Douglas to address things so true to his own life.
Though “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” never aspires to serve as a critique of modern day avarice, ignoring the Madoff scandal entirely, it does give the audience a perceptive lens into the powerbrokers’ wheeling and dealing ways. Perhaps as filmmaker, Stone suggests that power-hungriness and avariciousness have always lurked around all of us, and that the term “greed” while may not being good is perhaps necessary to fulfill the American Dream. Fortunately, Frank Langella’s character serves as the guiding moral conscience for young LeBeouf, and for us. He reminds “to rise above it” –”it” being the lure of the corrupted side of wealth. “It” could punish the soul.
Ultimately, the film is about redemption, as Gekko seeks to redeem his own soul, but is unable to do so fully as his urges get the better of him. After serving time in prison, he is forced to choose between family and more personal gain.
“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”is a fine– and fun— film that educates, entertains and above all reminds, “the mother of all evil is speculation” and “idealism kills every deal.”
Will be opening here 6/10/2010