Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Rhoades)

“Wall Street” Up to Old Tricks
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

You almost say their name in the same breath: Michael Milken, Kenneth Lay, Bernie Madoff, Gordon Gekko. Those symbols of greed.

Of course, Gordon Gekko is not real, merely a figment of filmmaker Oliver Stone’s trenchant imagination. He introduced Gekko in the form of a hair-slicked-back, fast-talking Michael Douglas in the seminal 1987 film “Wall Street,” an examination of all that’s wrong with capitalism.

Now, 23 years later, Stone brings Gordon Gekko back in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” obviously feeling that the American public needs a reminder. Michael Douglas reprises his Oscar-winning role, this time giving us a repentant Gekko, just released after serving his prison term. Now he’s a celeb, having written a book titled “Is Greed Good?”

“Somebody reminded me I once said greed is good,” Gekko says. “Now it seems it’s legal. Because everybody’s drinking the same Kool-Aid.”

If “greed” was the premise of the first film, Stone says the tagline of this one should be “More.”

“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” is playing at the Tropic Cinema. It’s a must-see for those of us trying to survive the Great Recession.

Instead of Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) as the naive protégé being led astray, we have Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf) as the kid engaged to Gekko’s daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Dear ol’ dad-to-be invites him into the family business in return for his help in repairing the estranged relationship with his daughter.

“Gekko plays an ambiguous role in this – because Shia uses Gekko to try to break the lock on the bank,” says Stone. “But Gekko’s using the kid to try to make his money back. [Laughs.] It’s more complex than the original.”

Despite Jacob’s fiancée’s warning about her father’s motives, the young trader proceeds in this unholy alliance, hoping to alert the financial community to a coming doomsday, while also trying to discover who murdered his old mentor (Frank Langella).

This time around the villain is Bretton James (Josh Brolin), a hedge fund manager that Jacob suspects of being involved in his friend’s death. “Josh becomes the new Gekko,” says Stone. “A sexy, handsome, but devastatingly dangerous man.”
Even so, times have changed. “Gordon Gekko couldn’t manipulate the markets like he did back then,” he says. “It’s so big, so huge, that to be a minor player, you need to be a major bank.”

He adds, “In the movie, you’ll see the bankers are playing every end. They’re bookies. They play long and short – like any good gambler. Their profits are going to come from trading for themselves. What interest do they have in society?”
Susan Sarandon is seen as Jacob’s mom. Eli Wallach hobbles out as an older banker.
Charlie Sheen does a walk-on as his character Bud Fox from the original “Wall Street,” providing a sense of continuity. And contrast.

Stone explains, “In the other movie, Charlie Sheen is corrupt at the beginning and he finds a path to integrity. In this movie, it starts out the other way. Shia and Carey are idealists. And their idealism is being threatened.”

“I never saw myself back here doing this,” says Charlie Sheen, now the star of TV’s “Two and a Half Men.” “I think the timing is really good for a film like this. This one is extremely topical as far as the economic tailspin that this country is in.”
Oliver Stone agrees. “What’s going on now is legal. It’s legal robbery.”
[from Solares Hill]

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