Olvier Stone’s new film Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps delivers. This is not a great film, and from an emotional delivery standpoint, it provides significantly less than Wall Street 1. There’s much to do made about “fusion” energy and somehow that $100million has to go to some California professor to help his research keep going. Really, as we really care about that. There’s a love story between the main “protege” character Jake Moore (played by Shia LeBeouf) and his girlfriend/fiance Winnie (played by the delightful English actress Carey Mulligan), who is the daughter of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas, again, captivating as always).
The narrative doesn’t really hold up, but there are two aspects of this film which are truly special: Stone’s production values – albeit frequently “over the top” are a total delight to behold (making this film eminently worth viewing on the big screen, instead of waiting for the DVD version), filled with split screens, fades and even wipes, along with rioting colourful streams of numbers running down New York City streets during the night. All of this is meant to give us some visual feeling for the frenenticism associated with Wall Street trading and the 2008 financial meltdown – when most of the film is set. New York City has rarely looked finer, more brilliant and more impressive on screen. Thankfully there are no acheing references to September 11th (the film’s themes are already a bit too much weight).
And the second great part about Wall Street 2 was about the character of Jake (LeBeouf) and his relationships with four older men: Gordon Gekko, Louis Zabel (an obviously Jewish head trader in his company, played by Frank Langella), Bretton James (Josh Brolin, in a great performance – here playing the bad guy competitor of Zabel and – it turns out – Gekko before him) and “Dr Masters” (Austin Pendleton), the California alternative energy guru who Jake tries so hard to finance. Jake, we discover, lost his father at a young age (and his relationship with his mother, wanna-be real estate agent played by Susan Sarandon, is also nicely done) and his attempts to find older male mentors and father figures is touching, and is the real emotional core of this film – not the often-confusing financial shenanigans or even the Winnie-Gordon relationship. Stone, I think, really loves the man’s world more than anything and it is those male relationships that carry this film.
Stone, like other Hollywood personalities (Mel Gibson, anyone?) has had a hard time staying out of controversy. Click here for my summary of his July 26, 2010 antisemitic rave and response.