Following on from Oliver Stone’s (Platoon) 1987 financial drama Wall Street (which focussed on an young stock broker desperate to succeed in the dog-eat-dog world of financial trading, and the relationship he develops with his mentor; and unscrupulous corporate raider named Gordon Gekko), Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps picks up many years later, and follows another young trader, who idolizes Gordon, and wishes to exploit his knowledge of the financial world, in order to get rich.
Beginning the film in 2001 we see Gordon Gekko (who’s once again being portrayed by a returning Michael Douglas) being released from prison (where’s he’s been held for eight years thanks to insider trading and securities fraud witnessed in the first movie) to little fan-fare, yet the film’s main action takes place seven years later (in 2008); taking place 23 years after the events of the original, and using the 2008 financial crisis as the backdrop for the story.
Transformers’ Shia LaBeouf plays this movie’s hopeful young trader; Jake Moore; and begins the movie as a young but successful Wall Street trader working for a company that’s soon to go belly-up, and living with the daughter of the infamous Wall Street trader Gordon Gekko; who by 2008 hasn’t been let back into the financial world, but has a new book (aptly titled ‘Is Greed Good?’; a riff on his previous catchphrase, ‘Greed is Good’), gives regular lectures on the state of the economy, and is predicting a massive economic slump just around the corner.
When Jake’s company hits hard times (something he failed to see coming), and his long-time mentor is left penniless and humiliated, Jake’s understandably furious, and goes to seek advice from Gekko; the charismatic man who once ruled the trading world; and attempt to patch up his relationship with his estranged daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan, Never Let Me Go), and bring the three closer together.
Winnie’s decidedly against patching things up with her father, since she blames Gordon for just about every unpleasant thing that’s happened in her life, and warns Jake that forming any kind of relationship with him will end badly; a piece of advice Jake chooses to ignore, as he believes that Gordon is the perfect man to help him eek out some sort of revenge from the man he blames for ruining his former mentors life (a ruthless financial mogul named Bretton James; played by No Country For Old Men’s Josh Brolin; who’s head of the trading company that blocked the bailout of Jake’s company, and made a huge profit from its failure).
The 2008 financial crisis created the perfect setting for Wall Street 2; providing a huge global financial problem that every member of the public in the western world has at least heard of, and probably has some basic knowledge of; and could have been easily predicted by someone as shrewd as Gekko is presented as being (the fact that his warnings are consistently ignored is also an interesting facet, and begs the question as to just how many real analysts’ opinions were ignored in the run up to the crash?), and provides a reality based event that really rocked the financial world, gave traders something to panic about, and was truly earth shattering; making the 23 year wait between Wall Street, and Money Never Sleeps, the perfect amount of time for a sequel, and ensured that this isn’t just another shameless cash in, but a film worth watching.
For people who haven’t seen the original Wall Street there’s little need to watch it before seeing this one; as what little backstory is needed is fully explained without viewers even noticing that there was a first movie (although anyone who hasn’t seen the original won’t be able to fully appreciate the cameo by Charlie Sheen; who reprises his role as Bud Fox, in a segment that’s solely for fans of the original, and means nothing whatsoever to newcomers), and it manages to pull you into the traders’ world so quickly, and with such ease, that you’ll forget anything ever came before, and simply be trying to keep up with the jargon, and the ins-and-outs of the high-powered trading class, who make decisions worth hundreds of millions of dollars as if it’s as easy as telling a barman to ‘keep the change.’
And while the subtle ins-and-outs of such a world can’t be fully explained in a two-hour movie, Oliver Stone does a great job of not only glossing over the fact that people don’t understand it (by powering through with fast and snappy dialogue, and refusing to dumb anything down; by having everyone talk straight through deals, trades, and the ups-and-downs of the market as they should; as if it’s nothing), but forcing them to rush to catch up and understand by never slowing down, keeping his film in touch with the financial world, and ensuring Wall Street 2 is clever and slick, from beginning to end.
Yet while it’s clear that Wall Street’s second outing is both clever and slick (and even manages to make the world of trading in stocks and shares; which can outwardly appear fairly boring, aside from the multi-million dollar deals; appear clever and slick; thanks to some fairly apt and stylish direction), it may be too clever for its own good, and actually alienate a good many viewers; as Money Never Sleeps isn’t for the easily confused, requires a bit of thinking, and wouldn’t really suit anyone who doesn’t watch the news (even occasionally); as they’re likely to be unable to follow what’s going on, and become disinterested fairly quickly.
Michael Douglas is on top form as Gekko, and truly owns the movie; he’s a true trading legend, a rock-star, and is not only convincing as such, but every bit as charismatic, endearing, and subtly sinister as he should be; and surrounded by similarly weighty individuals; from Frank Langella (The Box) turn as the failing former mogul you can’t help feel sorry for, to Susan Sarandon’s (Stepmom) turn as the financially inept mother of Jake, and Josh Brolin (who was in reality a bit of a trader) who’s easily capable of holding his own against such a crowd of experienced and talented actors, and easily passes off as a true force to be reckoned with.
Carey Mulligan is also well placed among the heavyweight actors; never getting pushed aside in her emotional scenes with Michael Douglas; but the film’s main star; Shia LaBeouf; seems oddly out of place, and while he reels off his lines in an acceptable enough manner, it’s never entirely believable that he could hold his own in a world ruled by ruthless dealers such as Brolin and Douglas, and feels like he’s not quite ready to leave the popcorn world of Transformers just yet.
All in all Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a solid sequel, produced at the perfect time (thanks to the 2008 crash providing the perfect backdrop for a financially based tale), that’s littered with solid performances, made with slick direction, and is sure to entertain both fans of the original, and newcomers, but may be just a little too clever for it’s own good, and find many an action or rom-com fan becoming disinterested part-way through.
Unlike some of the financial talk, Wall Street‘s video quality is unlikely to put anybody off the movie; as while the DVD obviously doesn’t look quite as pristine as the Blu-ray release (which looks simply fantastic), and has an evident (through not distracting) layer of grain covering the image, it has strong black levels, superb colour and contrast, and detail that’s as good as you’re likely to find on a DVD; making it a great transfer, and one that won’t disappoint.
Money Never Sleeps was never going to have the sort of all-encompassing soundtrack that accompanies releases such as The Pacific, but its Dolby Digital 5.1 track does a solid job of bringing the audio to DVD; with crisp and clear dialogue, which is the most importance part of the mix, well anchored in the front and centre channels, always intelligible, and never gets drowned out, as well as appropriately weighty bass where needed (during club scenes, or when vehicles such as motorbikes of helicopters make an appearance), and the occasional bit of surround usage (on the city streets, or in the bustling stock exchange); ensuring that while Wall Street 2‘s audio might not be as dazzling as Gekko’s egotistical flare, it’s a more than acceptable transfer that does it’s job adequately.
Unfortunately DVD buyers will be let down somewhat by the special features available on the DVD edition of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, as whilst the Blu-ray edition comes with a whole host of bonus materials, its standard definition counterpart comes loaded with only a digital copy of the movie, and a solitary, 9 minute, feature titled Gordon Gekko is Back; which is interesting enough in its own right, and shows Michael Douglas, Shia Labeouf, Oliver Stone, and other members of the crew, discussing the appeal of Gordon (seen as how he’s supposed to be a pretty vile character), and gives a little bit of information, but will leave fans undoubtedly wanting more.
The Bottom Line:
Packed full of powerful performances (from everyone except Shia LaBeouf) the sequel to 1987’s smash hit Wall Street; Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps; is far from a shameless cash in, and is a film that needed to wait 23 years to have the perfect financial setting upon which to base its clever story, and stage the return of a true screen legend; Gordon Gekko.
In terms of quality the DVD is more than adequate; having impressive picture quality, sound yet not entirely stunning audio, a digital copy, and one short but enjoyable featurette; however the Blu-ray is far superior in terms of both picture and audio quality, and comes loaded with a whole host of extra bonus materials that make it well worth the extra few notes.
Yet while the story may be good, the direction may be stylish, and it may be a true treat just to see how charismatic, engrossing, and frankly brilliant Michael Douglas is, Wall Street 2‘s main problem is also one of its biggest assets; its uncompromising nature, which forces viewers to rush to keep up with what’s going on, and may find a good deal of viewers either losing interest, or simply not caring about what’s happening on-screen.
It’s great to see Douglas back in the saddle as Gekko; and there’s no denying that this truly is his film; but there’s also no denying that a tale of potential corporate espionage, set against a backdrop of global financial woes, will fail to leave viewers with the same tingly feeling as watching Jason Statham kill people in The Mechanic, have the same impact as watching Aaron Ralston’s struggle for survival played out in 127 Hours, or give the same inspirational boost as watching Mickey Ward’s battle against the odds realized in The Fighter, so unless you’re a fan of the original (and therefore basically guaranteed to at least enjoy watching the sequel), it might be best to give Money Never Sleeps a rent before buying, because there’s only a slim chance you’ll ever watch it again.