Saturday, January 22, 2011

Movie Review: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

The notorious Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), investor genius, gets out of prison after an 8-year sentence for insider trading. Upon his release, he quickly realizes that he is alone. His only daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), blames him for the death of her brother and refuses to reconcile their differences.

Winnie's fiancee, Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), is a financial trader who seeks to enact revenge upon those responsible for the demise of his mentor. As a result, Jake secretly turns to Gordon for assistance.

Wall Street is a world unto its own. Unless you have a background in financial investment, much of the dialog surrounding the movie's plot will quickly go over your head. Failure to understand the finer details of the back room deals shouldn't hinder you from the more general idea that someone is doing something bad. Although, it would have been nice to have the concepts explained a little better.

Going into this movie, I was excited to see Michael Douglas revive the famous Gordon Gekko character because he is extremely intelligent, arrogant, rich, and just fun to watch. Even more than that, I kept looking for small takeaway lessons that I could immediately apply to my own life. One scene in the movie did exactly that.

It was during a presentation that Gordon spoke about the sickness that is GREED. We, as Americans, are obsessed with the word "more." We want larger houses. We buy things on credit and ultimately borrow more than we can afford. We have few assets and yet continue to purchase liabilities that eventually steal our financial freedom. We become slaves to debt. Even our own banking system fell victim to the trap. It has become like a cancer that infects every area.

Oliver Stone, director, did a great job of keeping the essence of the first Wall Street movie. Key characters returned in support of the story and it worked.

As a leading man, Shia did a good job. Although, much like Charlie Sheen in the first movie, the characters played second fiddle to the movie's power player, Michael Douglas, who brings experience and credibility to the film.

Gekko's daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), served her role in the movie, but I'm not sure she would have been my first pick. Maybe it's not the actress at all, but rather a serious dislike for the character's negative attitude throughout the movie.

While I wasn't a fan of Ms. Whiny (I mean Ms. Winnie), Josh Brolin did a good job playing the powerful Bretton James. In the absence of Gordon Gekko, the world produced Bretton James. If Gordon and Bretton were to square off back in the 80's, I'm not sure who would win.  

Overall, the movie was ok. There were teachable moments about the economy, wealth building, and the destructive nature of greed, which Oliver lightly covered. However, the movie was not a home run hit for me.

The film could have used more tension. In the end, I found that I cared very little about anyone in the movie because they were all rich. Seriously, it's hard to feel sorry for a billionaire who losses a few millions. The only person who really had it bad was Jake's mother (played by Susan Sarandon).

Similar to the first installment, a small company relied on funding to keep afloat. In this movie, that company was an offshore research facility focused on developing a new energy source. Not that I don't care about the world's energy problems, but I didn't care about this company or the people who worked for it. Why? you ask. Because we never got to know them.

The movie is entertaining mainly because of Michael Douglas, who does a wonderful job. However, I wouldn't advise a mad dash to your local Redbox. If it happens to come on Netflix streaming, I'd encourage you to watch it so you can say that you did, but it is just ok.

The movie is rated PG-13, but I doubt anyone under or around 13 would sit through this movie. Well, unless we're talking about a much younger Alex P. Keaton.   

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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