DVD Review: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Directed By Oliver Stone
Starring Shia LeBeouf, Michael Douglas, Carey Mulligan and Josh Brolin


A belated sequel arriving decades after its predecessor never usually ends well – we have Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as a sad reminder of that. But while Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps hits screens 23 years after the hit stock market film that spawned it, the corruption-riddled state of the banking industry and the mangled condition of the current economic climate leaves everyone’s favourite savage stock-trading shark Gordon Gekko feeling more relevant than ever. However, though Money Never Sleeps arrives with an energetic verve and a superb cast that keep it from slipping into the bargain bin of unwelcome overdue sequels, Gordon Gekko’s return isn’t quite the ferocious satire it could be.

After stepping out of jail from a lengthy prison sentence for insider trading, Gekko (Michael Douglas) is alone, despised by his daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) and on the bottom rung of the financial stratosphere – a moralising outsider on the fringe of the world he one ruled, he’s on a promotional campaign for his book ‘Is Greed Good?’, which lambastes the banking organisations ruining the economy. Young stock trader Jake Moore (Shia LeBeouf) has a high-paying position at a prestigious trading film and is all set to marry Winnie when a series of false insider rumours lead to the death of the company, a downward spiral in the economy and the suicide of Jake’s mentor Louis Zabel (Frank Langella). Bent on revenge, Jake asks for Gordon’s help in taking down Bretton James (Josh Brolin), the shady trader who engineered the stock market plummet that killed Zabel, on the condition that Jakes helps reunite Gekko with his daughter.
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Of course, Jake seeking Gordon Gekko’s help to bring down a shady broker is the financial equivalent of Will Graham or Clarice Starling enlisting Hannibal Lecktor to catch a serial killer, but though Gekko’s own motives are always suspect, the irony is that he’s been dropped into a world fraught with financial corruption so limitless that it makes his crimes seem insignificant; he’s the moral anti-hero by comparison. It’s a shame, then, that while Stone and writers Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff sow the potent seeds of a timely, biting satire, it never flourishes into one – for all the thick financial talk of moral hazards and steroid banking, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps still remains a rather simple, nonetheless engaging moral fable about the importance of embracing family over wealth.

Much of the fire and fury of iconic ’80s sleazeball Gordon Gekko has been dampened noticeably, the volatile chemistry, quotable dialogue and gouging critique of the financial world now reduced to mildly witty platitudes. It’s a weariness that extends beyond the character to the film at large as the story’s simple morality tale never gives birth to characters that demand investment; the cast are solid – often excellent – but the relationship drama at the heart of the film is deflated by a familiar and entirely predictable plot, capped by a final wrapped-in-a-bow ending that never really feels earned. Stone doesn’t quite trust the audience to enjoy the lengthy film on its own merit, either: The distractingly dated-feeling soundtrack is almost exclusively comprised of David Byrne and Brian Eno songs which aim to milk every ounce of ’80s nostalgia, derailing cameos pop up every which way (the only welcome one being from Charlie Sheen, reprising his role as Bud Fox), while a motorcycle chase scene exists only to shoehorn some action into the film.
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All the same, though Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps never reaches the heights of its cinematic parent, it’s still a slick and entertaining, if uncomplicated and familiar film. Douglas might not be given the original film’s savage character to work with, but he still cuts a magnetic presence as Gordon Gekko. Similarly, Shia LeBeouf isn’t afforded the same character meat that Charlie Sheen was, but he delivers a solid performance, holding his own against Douglas and Brolin (who excels even in a one-note villain role) and displaying substantial chemistry with the wonderful Carey Mulligan (not surprising considering they started dating while filming the movie). With a 2 hour, 15 minute runtime and a script filled with rapid-fire financial jargon, Money Never Sleeps should be a plodding film, but against the odds, it feels breezy, fast-paced and immediately enjoyable even for those who thought a hedge fund was a jar where gardeners kept their small change.

Oliver Stone’s first sequel is also his most commercial, Hollywood-friendly film; a slick, stylish and entertaining drama, Money Never Sleeps quickly buries any urge to go for the banking world’s jugular and replaces insight with a predictable, sentimental moral fable. But while it’s never a film that shocks or surprises with its twists and turns, an excellent cast and a light, breezy pace leave us with a fun film that just about earns its place as a worthwhile follow-up to Wall Street.
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Fox Home Entertainment’s DVD release comes with a perfect video transfer and a great audio treatment to boot. A digital copy is also included for those who’d like to watch the film on their iPod or similar mobile device.

Sadly the only other extra is the brief 8 minute feature ‘Gordon Gekko is Back’, which features quick interview snippets from the cast and crew, along with clips from both films, focusing on the continued allure of Michael Douglas’ iconic love-to-hate-him villain.

The Film:

The DVD:




Wall Street is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.
Click here to order the DVD from Amazon.co.uk.