The original Wall Street is a wonderful time capsule of both the eighties’ yuppie mentality and the brief but memorable time when Oliver Stone was a competent filmmaker. Wall Street provided the viewer with three actors at the top of their game, delivering emotionally evocative and compelling performances within a framework of politically and monetarily charged perspectives. The movie works as both a satire of the times and a cautionary tale for the greedy young investor. Looking back on it now, the film feels as relevant as ever, in spite of its obsession with now-dated 80s fashions and the hilariously inappropriate inclusion of a “futuristic” robot waiter. In the same way, Wall Street 2 (yes kids, it’s a sequel) is a microcosmic love letter to the nineties and 2000s, metaphorically representing two decades of wasteful spending by providing its audience with another pointlessly indulgent double-dip franchise.
If the first Wall Street can be best described as a battle for Bud Fox’s (Charlie Sheen’s) soul, this meandering and belated follow-up can be described as a battle between the filmmaker and the audience’s good will. Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is already considered to be one of the greatest film villains of all time, so why does Oliver Stone insist on tarnishing his memory? Not only is this incarnation of Gekko half-assed and watered-down due to Douglas’ age and Stone’s inability to achieve the modest heights of his own archaic writing style, Gekko’s role in the film demands that the audience forget the previous movie in order to buy into the fact that Gekko is a changed man. It’s the equivalent of George Lucas making a new Star Wars where Emperor Palpatine applies for a job at a Day Care Center. “Surely, the kindly new caretaker with the sunken eyes and the weathered face will never turn against the children!” Not to spoil the ending, but this movie is a piece of shit.
Whereas the original movie was based on the concept that Bud was slowly devolving into a villain by following Gekko’s seemingly compelling advice, there is absolutely nothing at stake in Money Never Sleeps, thanks to its lackluster new characters being somehow less interesting than its broken but taped-together old ones. I know some of you vagina-havers out there consider this Shia LaBeowulf character to be quite the “hunka-dunk” (your words, not mine) but can you honestly give me an example of a movie where he isn’t just furrowing his brow with petulant indignation while shouting dialog at the other actors? I know he’s tiny like a stick insect in person, but his dumbass bully persona is as grating as any conversation with a too-tuff moron suffering from Short Man’s Complex. There’s a female lead this in this movie too, but she’s similar to Glenn Beck in that her evil grows each time you say her name, so I’ll just call her Voldemort from now on to save time.
The basic plot of the movie is this: Shia LaBeowulf and Lord Voldemort are hanging out at a lesbian bar and decide to get married. Gordon Gekko is released from federal prison but sentenced to the much worse punishment of existing in this movie. LaBeowulf is excited because Gekko is Voldemort’s dad (no surprises there) but Voldemort hates Gekko because she blames him for her brother’s suicide. LaBeowulf spots an opportunity for destroying his fiance’s life by exploiting her “formerly” evil father for personal gain. Meanwhile Frank Langella snaps out of senility for a brief enough moment to realize that he’s been cast in a sequel to Wall Street and not the original, forcing him to commit suicide by leaping in front of a train and making everybody late for work like a real asshole. LaBeowulf looked up to Langella like a non-molester uncle and decides to team up with Gordon Gekko to fight the evil train commissioner by riding his motorcycle against oncoming trains. (Okay, that part doesn’t happen, but the movie would be way better if it did.)
Instead LaBeowulf continues to ruin his fiance’s life by making Gekko a part of it, trading visits with his fiance for hot stock tips. There’s a bunch of way too on-the-nose commentary about the current financial crisis and the dot-com bubble that plays like a staged reading of a C-Span transcript, which makes up a majority of the film’s seven hour runtime. Josh Brolin arrives to remind us that between this and Jonah Hex he’s been having a real shit factory of a year. Brolin tries acting for a bit, then goes apeshit and leaves. There’s a crazy old man who makes birdcalls (this part I’m not making up) and he is apparently the world’s smartest investor, even though he never does anything to progress the plot or affect a character in any way. LaBeowulf takes some bad advice from Gekko and surprise, surprise (puppy surprise!) Gekko turns out to be not so nice, even though he like, totally said he was before. Um, dick.
Voldemort gets pregnant with LaBeowulf’s demon seed and LaBeowulf tries to use fetuses to leverage a business deal with a newly European Gekko. Gekko is unimpressed by fetuses and says no dice, running off with LeBeowulf and Voldemort’s money. But after staring at a fetus for six hours, Gekko realizes the true meaning of fetuses and returns to help the rest of the cast rip off the ending of As Good As It Gets for no reason.
I can’t begin to explain how meaningless and drama-free this film is. It’s worse than the first draft of your friend’s play from high school. There are no stakes and all the scenes contain expository dialog that hinges on the assumption that you like the characters enough to forgive the fact that nothing’s happening. It’s a goddamn shame considering that the only people surprised by Gekko’s evilness are the stupid fucks who walked into this tripe without seeing the original. And if they didn’t see the original, why the hell should they care about these characters at all? If the first movie were the main course of an expensive dinner at a five star restaurant, this second movie would be the after-dinner rape.
The single total effect of this movie is “nothing,” and I think that’s what Oliver Stone was gunning for. He was hoping that the basic facets of his universe were so fascinating that his listless and awful storytelling could be white-washed with a few crappy new Gekko quips and a couple special effects borrowed from a ninth grade chemistry video. The movie is so badly written and poorly conceived that Stone has to cut away from his new Gekko monologues with lazy montage fade-outs, as if we won’t notice that the major points of Gekko’s economic arguments are missing. Could it be that Gekko’s lost the pulse of Wall Street while he was in prison, or that maybe the crystal meth that Stone uses for inspiration lead him so far off the deep-end he forgot that satire is supposed to be poignant not redundant?
A breathtaking cure for insomnia, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a great example of why filmmakers revisit their former ideas (hint: first word of the subtitle) and also why they never, ever should. Sequels are supposed to be derivative, but not confusing to the point of retardation. The ending is so cheesy and forced that I expected the characters to shrug and smile before moronically intoning, “Here we go again!” By the time Bud Fox shows up for his obligatory cameo, you’ll realize there’s nothing this movie can do to save itself. Sans the heart provided by Martin Sheen in the first film, this flick is mired in vapid soulless characters with unclear motivations. Money never sleeps, but I did.