By Greg Elperin
I came into Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps with mixed expectations. On one hand, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street was a raw and controversial movie about unchecked ambition and greed. On the other hand, a 20 plus year gap between installments is usually a sign of trouble, as is revamping a beloved cast with a new generation of actors.
In this case, the wait was a smart move on Stone’s part, since the message of Wall Street could hardly be more relevant than it is now.
Michael Douglas makes his return as the infamous Gordon Gekko. This time he’s an older, wiser man, returning from prison to play father figure to Shia LaBeouf’s (you guessed it) well-intentioned everyman Jake Moore.
The two are on a mission to solve the murder of Jake’s mentor and avert oncoming financial ruin. If that description doesn’t sound like Wall Street to you, don’t worry; Gordon Gekko hasn’t gotten soft.
In fact, the movie’s most exciting moments come from Gekko doing what he does best: displaying his cutthroat charm in ways that sometimes rival the performance that won him an Oscar 23 years ago.
Unfortunately, when Gekko’s underhanded antics aren’t the center of attention, the movie sometimes veers into conventional drama territory.
LaBeouf is mildly charming as always, but lacks the charisma and presence to carry a movie as a serious actor.
The same can be said of Carey Mulligan playing Gekko’s daughter Winnie and Jake’s wife to be.
And unsurprisingly, the intensity drops when the older talent is out of the picture.
Not to mention the movie’s good-hearted, sometimes preachy nature prevents Stone from getting the most out of a mostly promising cast and premise.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is an adequate sequel and a worthwhile movie in its own right, but it lacks the poignancy that made the original great. It’s worth the price of a ticket and the loss of two hours but little else.