Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

So, it's been a while since I'd seen the original Wall Street. Since that time I'm accustomed to hearing the lines quoted verbatim in the streets mostly those of Wall Street Huckster Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas). But what really stuck out for me after all of these years wasn't always the quotable lines or the villainous turn by the head baddie himself, it was watching Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) being carted away at the end in handcuffs, crying all over his thousand dollar suit. It's an image I wanted duplicated tenfold in this film and it came really close, but in the end Oliver blinked and lost a major opportunity to say something very important about how our financial system is regulated. I think we all know that Oliver Stone is not just the crazy guy or the mad guy but I would like to think he's the guy that enjoys making the audience squirm a bit in order for them to get a taste of this fucked up system of ours and how it feels to be screwed. You really think he's going to go there with this and that is why it's just so damn sad. He could have tapped into that anger and depression out there about these Wall Street clowns and finally explain the default swaps and the toxic assets that led to the financial collapse in a coherent way. He could have shown the villains true face and explained that these assholes are still there looking to do more damage because they don't give a shit as long as they make their payday. He just didn't do that, and its a damn shame.
Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) is an investment banker who finds himself caught in the middle of two pretty difficult situations. On one hand he wants to play with fire and get some revenge on the asshole Corporate Raider, Bretton James (Josh Brolin), who sabotaged his former firm and made a fool out of his beloved mentor (Frank Langella). On the other he's trying to patch up his fiance's (Carey Mulligan) shitty relationship  with her cold as ice father, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), who is seemingly trying to repair that relationship as well as his public one after his fall from grace and nine years of prison. What is a boy to do.
I know I sound harsh, but I really did love the first hour and half of this movie. It was well paced, it was building toward something. How Jake was able to manipulate the stock by making a few phone calls, nice. I liked all the tech references and how they were weaving into the big con. We also get to see the building up toward the collapse in 2008, with bailouts to follow and the slimy bastards that were looking to get their payday, the American people be damned. After the fall the knife begins to turn a bit more thus becoming a movie half about revenge and the other about Gordon Gekko and how he's trying to get his house in order. It wasn't that I disliked this part, I just didn't understand what that had to do with the overall story. From then on Stone had Gekko talking more about the financial gloom of where we are headed as a nation but not really giving much content on why or how. Then we get more into his fucked up relationship with his daughter and then the the Wall Street stuff starts to take a drastic back seat to this unfolding drama.

And now instead of a shining, "Oh fuck", moment like Bud Fox being carted away crying in handcuffs, you get a cushy ending where everyone is happy and nothing is really fixed. The bad guys go to jail and redemption is found. It didn't feel like reality. It's nice to think that there will be justice for people who lost it all due to greedy bastards but that just isn't our reality and it just makes the ending feel even more vacant and surreal. Although there was a nice touch when we see Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) in his cameo and he like most of these Wall Street wolves hadn't learned anything from his incarceration. He was just as slimy as Gekko was in Wall Street with just as big a chip on his shoulder. The performances were great though and it's really wonderful watching Michael Douglas chew out Shia and spit him out a few times. Josh Brolin was also incredibly frightening as the cold as ice Bretton James, great job all around on the cast, including Eli Wallach's crazy old business man. Near the end his little quirks got a little too weird but I was amused with him just the same. I am putting my Bucket stamp of approval on the movie, even though it has its faults. Honestly the first hour and a half is a masterpiece it just starts to crumble a bit after that. But it's a good flick and deserves your attention especially if you are fan of the original.

Grade: 3 Buckets

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