Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
This was a strange, vexing, somewhat admirable failure of a film by a director who used to be one of my favorite filmmakers. Oliver Stone has always been a strange man who made polarizing films, but he never used to make boring ones, until the past few years, however, when he seemed to go soft and start making movies that could've been directed by anybody. I don't like movies directed by anyone. I like movies directed by Oliver Stone. Or, at least, I used to. Anyway, I certainly didn't like this one.
When I heard that Stone was going to make a sequel to his classic film Wall Street, set in the present day and centered around our recent economic collapse, I was excited. I rewatched the original film just to catch up on the story again (and was surprised by how brilliantly it holds up), but then I saw the trailer and it looked... meh. When the reviews and word of mouth was terrible, I still meant to see it, but I just never found the time or the energy. I finally rented it on Blu Ray, and just about the best thing I can say about it is that the video presentation was flawless. The movie, however, sucked.
First of all, it was boring. Of course, economics and accounting and stock trading aren't exactly the most thrilling things upon which to base a film, but the first Wall Street was brilliantly entertaining and enthralling. If you know a lot about economics or the recent market problems, you might find some stuff to enjoy here, but as an admitted moron, I was bored and left clueless. The first film was about the same things, but it was told in a way that morons like me could understand and follow along. After watching the first film, I came away with a better understanding of Wall Street. After watching the sequel, I walked away learning nothing at all, and suspected that Oliver Stone didn't know much either. The collapse of the markets happened just as abruptly in the movie as it did in real life, which may have been a stylistic approach to model reality, but it was just awkward and confusing when put on film.
Storywise, this film was just a huge mess. Shia LaBeouf is a talented actor, but his character was so poorly written and thought out that it was all but impossible to care about him or anything he did. I had no emotional attachment to his character, nor did I believe any of the relationships he formed with his girlfriend or any of his various mentors or friends. Did he want revenge on the villain? Did he want to save the world with clean hydro fusion (whatever the hell that is)? Or did he just want to make lots of money? I asked these questions because the film never answered them, and just when you thought the character's motivations and arc was clear, the filmed changed directions and ignored what came before in favor of some new tangent. It was just terrible.
I can't say anything bad about the cast, however, which was fantastic. It was a treat to see Michael Douglas reprising his role as Gordon Gekko. Every scene he was in was worth watching and a lot of fun. He's still a great actor who oozes charisma. Also great was Josh Brolin, who was in this film because he legally has to appear in every film now. There was also a really strange, awkward cameo by Charlie Sheen, who was the star of the original Wall Street film. It was fun to see this character pop back up, but it was so awkwardly acted by Sheen, and it made no sense why his character was such a jerk.
So... skip it. It was a well intentioned film that attempted to skewer the 21st world of Wall Street the way the original skewered the Wall Street of the 80s, but it just lacked bite and was poorly written.