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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Fox // PG-13 // December 21, 2010
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Preston Jones | posted December 3, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Like the chaos on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps isn't quite clear what it wants to be. A emotionally charged domestic drama? A high-minded thriller about skating along the edge of the financial precipice? A worthy follow-up to a wildly popular film that's still widely quoted (and, even more sadly, more relevant than ever)? Twenty-three years after introducing the oily financier Gordon Gekko to the world, director Oliver Stone returns to the world of backroom dealings and high-stakes risk-taking with a sequel that should hit harder than it does. In the aftermath of 2008's global economic near-meltdown, a film like Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps should feel like a sledgehammer between the eyes, a work that channels the public rage at government bailouts of greedy corporations. Instead, it becomes sidetracked and bogged down, more worried about finding a slogan as timeless as "Greed is good" and less concerned about weaving a dramatically satisfying, never mind coherent, narrative.

As hungry newcomer Jake Moore, Shia LeBeouf steps into the space once occupied by Charlie Sheen. Moore is involved, by pure coincidence (right), with Gordon Gekko's estranged daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan). He's a Wall Street whiz, she's a lefty web journalist; together, he's hoping they can start a family and have their piece of the American dream. But, Gordon (Michael Douglas, reprising his Oscar-winning role), fresh out of federal prison after an eight-year stint, has other ideas. He's angling for a reunion with his child, and hopes to use Jake to make that happen. Meanwhile, Jake's world is on shaky ground -- the film is set in 2008, on the eve of the worldwide financial calamity -- and he's forced to work for the sinister Bretton James (Josh Brolin, in his usual, brows-furrowed bad-guy mode) when his firm unexpectedly hits the skids. Enter Gordon and his wily ways, which only adds to the overall story's frenetic nature.

Overlong by about 20 minutes, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, written by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff, tries to balance corporate intrigue with human drama and ends up shortchanging both. Stone, never one for subtlety (except perhaps for 2007's World Trade Center), hammers home the point about greed superseding all rational thought again and again -- one particularly piquant image that bookends the film is that of children blowing bubbles, upon which the camera lingers for an exceptionally long time. It's almost as though Stone is digging his elbow into your ribcage: "Get it?!? Get it?!? The bubble!" But all the histrionics would be tolerable if the narrative was able to move viewers beyond stirring up fresh rage at the trangressions of obscenely wealthy men. Without diving too deeply into spoiler territory, there's a subplot intended to humanize Gordon Gekko, to prove that he's more than just a snappy catchphrase (and speaking of which, the screenwriters worked overtime to make Gordon's lines soundbite-ready; he ends up functioning like a living cliche). Yet it's jammed in at such an awkward angle -- and has such a pat resolution -- that it simply feels like a cop-out.

The cast doesn't set off any fireworks either, a few potent sequences aside. Douglas appears to be coasting here, aiming for the lion in winter, but coming closer to housecat basking on a windowsill. LaBeouf overemotes and grimaces, while Mulligan, like Susan Sarandon, Eli Wallach and Frank Langella, is effectively wasted in her one-note role. There are plenty of high-powered cameos from the world of finance -- TV personalities like Maria Bartiromo, Ali Velshi and Jim Cramer turn up, as do Warren Buffett and Nouriel Rubini -- which does lend the film a level of authenticity. However, the fictional characters never feel lived in; the pathos the climax is striving for feels wholly unearned.

When he's got a juicy target at which to aim, few other filmmakers can summon the sort of graceful cinematic anger that Oliver Stone achieves. Wall Street is held up as a paragon of '80s filmmaking; it arguably did not need a sequel. The world nearly slid off the cliff, financially speaking, in 2008 and suddenly, the opportunity to catch up with the man who proclaimed greed as being good seemed all too fitting. Would that any of Stone's righteous fury made it into the finished product, which frequently feels like a high-gloss trailer for a film that doesn't really exist. Greed may be good, Gordon (and Oliver), but it is also hollow -- not unlike the noisy, diffuse film you've made this time around.

The DVD

The Video:

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps arrives on DVD with a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. However, the transfer cannot be accurately judged owing to 20th Century Fox's supplying a screener disc rather than final product. Slight smearing, pixilation and motion blur are evident throughout the entire film, as well as a Fox watermark obscuring portions of the image. Should final product be provided to DVD Talk, this rating will be revised to reflect its quality.

The Audio:

As with the visuals, the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track sounds pretty solid, conveying dialogue and score with no discernible problem, but an accurate assessment cannot be made, owing to the fact that Fox supplied a screener, rather than final product. An optional Spanish Dolby 2.0 stereo track is included, as are optional English and Spanish subtitles. Should Fox provide a retail version of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps for consideration, this rating will be revised to reflect the quality of the soundtrack.

The Extras:

Your portfolio won't benefit much from the skimpy supplements found on this disc. Stone sits for one of his customarily freewheeling, info-crammed commentary tracks; in it, he touches on the legacy of the first Wall Street film, as well as the challenges of making such convoluted, academic subject matter cinematically palatable. This being Stone, he also manages to weave some sharp jabs at the government's failure to prevent the real-life financial crises. It's an involving listen for a film that doesn't always deserve it. The only other extra of substance is a nine minute, 30 second featurette titled "Gordon Gekko is Back," (presented in anamorphic widescreen), which explores the enduring popularity of the character.

Final Thoughts:

Like the chaos on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps isn't quite clear what it wants to be. A emotionally charged domestic drama? A high-minded thriller about skating along the edge of the financial precipice? A worthy follow-up to a wildly popular film that's still widely quoted (and, even more sadly, more relevant than ever)? Twenty-three years after introducing the oily financier Gordon Gekko to the world, director Oliver Stone returns to the world of backroom dealings and high-stakes risk-taking with a sequel that should hit harder than it does. In the aftermath of 2008's global economic near-meltdown, a film like Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps should feel like a sledgehammer between the eyes, a work that channels the public rage at government bailouts of greedy corporations. Instead, it becomes sidetracked and bogged down, more worried about finding a slogan as timeless as "Greed is good" and less concerned about weaving a dramatically satisfying, never mind coherent, narrative. The world nearly slid off the cliff, financially speaking, in 2008 and suddenly, the opportunity to catch up with the man who proclaimed greed as being good seemed all too fitting. Would that any of Stone's righteous fury made it into the finished product, which frequently feels like a high-gloss trailer for a film that doesn't really exist. Greed may be good, Gordon (and Oliver), but it is also hollow -- not unlike the noisy, diffuse film you've made this time around. Rent it.

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