Money may never sleep, but you will during this movie.
You thought the mess left by AIG and Lehman Brothers was bad? Watch this movie. Oliver Stone’s sequel to his 1987 flick, the now guidebook for aspiring traders and a case study in ’80s decorating disasters, has none of the delightful excess, catchy camp, or loathsome characters of the original. Instead, Stone takes us on a rambling two-hour plus tale that has the pacing of New York traffic. The whole film is an insult to the bad name that is Gordon Gekko: no call girls? No garish apartments? No skull-sucking threats? Instead we get marriage proposals, hip Tribeca lofts, and a whole lot of man-crying.
Twenty years on, Gekko (Michael Douglas reprises the role) is out of jail and back working the system. Playing this generation’s Bud Fox is Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), who is engaged to Gekko’s estranged daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Add to this Jake’s attempt to seek revenge for his collapsed investment firm, something about green power (clean energy is the new sexy client – try telling that to Don Draper), and a motorcycle race with Josh Brolin, and you get a film as confused as investors on Oct. 6, 2008.
Wall Street managed to capture the greed and excess of the ’80s boom simply with the relationships of three men: Gekko, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), and Fox’s father (Martin Sheen). Money Never Sleeps, on the other hand, pulls in one too many characters, overextending the script so no one’s motivations can be properly explored. Jake’s manic obsession with fusion energy makes about as much sense as a subprime loan. It is never made clear why Winnie, the daughter of the most hated man on Wall Street, ends up engaged to another suit (other than the fact that Shia wears a suit very well). But perhaps this is the point. Greed doesn’t need to be explained, but is a given desire. And perhaps the Wall Street of Trump’s heyday can no longer be explained by a triumvirate of men, but requires a web so complex that investors and audiences alike can’t understand it.
Where the film does have some consistency is in the portrayal of this new Wall Street. Greed may not have changed, but technology certainly has. So it’s fitting that technology sets the tone for the changed world that Gekko is reentering. Leaving prison, he is handed his possessions: a timeless Rolex, a classic gold money clip, and finally a cellphone that makes Zach Morris look high-tech. The choice of the cellphone not only makes us all chuckle at its brick-like semblance, but also speaks to something larger: communication has changed, and the way of doing business along with it.
But quickly this look at technology becomes heavy-handed. Throughout the movie, stocks are superimposed over cityscapes, literally showing us how ubiquitous the stock market has become. Split screens are used more often than in [Pillow Talk](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WrEyVOPR8M), visually collapsing the space between traders across the globe and,lending their jobs all the gravity of Lindsay Lohan’s role in [Mean Girls](http://www.solarnavigator.net/films_movies_actors/film_images/Mean_Girls_split_screen_telephone_calls.jpg).
But the scene where the heavy hand turns into a pummeling fist is when Jake’s mentor, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella), forecasts the coming crash on a walk through Central Park. I kid you not, the camera pans to children frolicking in last few days of summer, blowing bubbles. As Jake and Louis walk away, the camera zooms in on a floating bubble as it soars into the ominously cloudy sky.
So what can we take away from Money Never Sleeps? In a warmly received cameo, Charlie Sheen returns for two minutes as Bud Fox and says what Stone takes two hours to say. With a woman on each arm at a $10,000-a-plate function, Fox, like the Terminator, keep coming back. No jail time can stop him, nor for that matter can Gekko, or even Martha Stewart.
And that’s the scariest part. If Gekko can come back, can Madoff? Give it 20 years and we’ll find out – let’s just hope Stone doesn’t feel the need to make a movie about it.