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film review—Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

film review—Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

I’m not a fan of sequels, by and large, but I suppose events of the past few years made it inevitable that someone would devise a followup to Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, which became a touchstone of its era. The new movie isn’t likely to have the same effect, as so many documentaries are covering the financial debacle, with more to come…but it certainly is entertaining.

Michael Douglas steps back into the role of onetime Wall Street lion Gordon Gekko as he’s released from an eight-year stretch in prison. This time around, he’s—

—more of an observer than a player, but ambitious young trader Shia LaBeouf seeks him out to pick his brain—and tell him that he’s in love with Gecko’s estranged daughter, played by Carey Mulligan.

I won’t reveal more of the story, credited to two screenwriters (Aaron Loeb and Stephen Schiff), except to remark that even in the wake of the economic bust—and America’s unprecedented bail-out of major investment banks—it is fascinating to watch high-level wheelers and dealers in action. Key among them are Josh Brolin, who is completely believable as a cocky financial wizard, and 94-year-old Eli Wallach, who gives an assured and engaging performance as one of the Old Guard of Wall Street.

All of this is presented in a handsome, high-energy production, shot by Rodrigo Prieto on location in New York; Manhattan has never looked more stylish.

The film isn’t perfect: it goes on too long, and the female characters (Mulligan and Susan Sarandon, as LaBeouf’s mother) are woefully underwritten. Worst of all is the final scene, which tries to wrap all the story strands together in a hopeless bit of contrivance.

But those shortcomings can’t, and don’t, rob the film of its substantial entertainment value. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps has momentum to burn, clever plotting, and strong performances. It’s well worth seeing.

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