"It's about the game!"
Money Never Sleeps is not a movie that will please everyone, but then what movie does? The movie rather defies classification, in that it could be called a drama, a documentary, a thriller, or even a mystery. You could call it any of those things and you'd be correct. The fact that it doesn't really fit into any category stems from the idea that at different times in the movie it wears a different genre. This may cause some audience members to dismiss the movie, claiming it doesn't know what it wants to be or that it lacks identity. There is certainly an argument to be made in that regard, but I feel that it succeeds because of the mixed qualities, not in spite of them.
The movie is intended as a sequel to the 1984 movie Wall Street. It takes place 20 years after the end of the previous movie and tells the story of Gordon Gekko's (Michael Douglas) life after he is released from prison as he struggles to regain everything he lost. The backdrop to Gekko's story is the height of the economic troubles in the U.S as the Federal Government is called upon to bail out the banks and insurance companies that are "too big to fail" (yes that line makes it into the movie). Taking the place of Charlie Sheen's Bud Fox is Shia Labeouf as Jake Moore a fairly successful broker who is engaged to Gekko's daughter Winnie (Carrie Mulligan). Jake makes contact with Gordon in an effort to mend the relationship between Gekko and his estranged daughter, but quickly becomes an under-study to the once brilliant broker. From here the movie charts a year in the lives of these characters, how they relate to one another and how they all deal with the reality of an economic depression.
First of all, let me congratulate Michael Douglas for an outstanding performance, especially when you consider the fact that he had throat cancer during the shooting of this movie. He slips into the role of Gekko as if there was no gap between the shooting of the original movie and the sequel. This is without doubt his movie! I am also shocked to say that I actually quite liked Shia Lebeouf in this movie, I can't call myself a fan of the actor since he is a part of the Michael Bay Heresy, but this was the right role for him and he seems to have good chemistry with Douglas. Josh Brolin is also terrific as the sinister rival to our protagonists Bretton James who may or may not have a hand in the current economic mess. Special consideration for Eli Wallach as Jules Steinhardt, he doesn't have that many scenes in the movie, but every time he is on screen he demands you're attention, no small feat for a man in his 90's.
The one character I found somewhat extraneous to the plot is that of Winnie Gekko played by Carrie Mulligan. No offense to the actress, I just think the character didn't get to play a big enough part in the story to justify her presence. I know they had to have some link between Gekko and Jake, but I wonder if they could have found another way that didn't require them to squander the talents of Ms. Mulligan.
I think the thing that worked most about this movie was the commentary it made of the economic disaster which lead to a global recession in 2008. In fact I think this is the best way to watch the movie, as a faux documentary. There are some scenes that wouldn't feel out of place in a discovery channel special. Gekko really exemplifies how the system is broken, as even with all the damage being done around him he still manages to turn a profit. The developing relationship between Gekko and Jake is handled very well, from a Mentor and Apprentice dynamic to one that is a tad more volatile as Jake desperately tries to hold his life together.
Additionally, director Oliver Stone adds some great touches to the movie. My personal favorite being the use of the electronic stock ticker. He has several scenes in the movie where he superimposes the ticker onto the New York skyline, or around the shape of an office building, and it acts as an excellent transition while keeping the audience focused on the idea that this movie is about money, it's about what happens when you have a system built on credit and how one man with the right connections and instincts can make or break that system.
While there is certainly a cerebral aspect to the movie, it doesn't fail to entertain. I had a really good time watching the movie, I felt invested in characters, especially Gekko and Jake, while at the same time I can't honestly pinpoint how the hero or the villain really are. Almost every character in the movie has a certain shade of gray that casts some doubt onto whether we can really call them good or bad.
Final Verdict on Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps: