Wall Street Money Never Sleeps Review by Dave

The Wall Street film phenomenon is twisted. Both the 1987 original and now the 2010 sequel ‘Money Never Sleeps‘ hold out two hands. In the first there is a world of high finance, corporate raiding and the aspirational materialism and glamour that is held out as a consequence. In the other, a very solemn and tangible sense of emptiness- the kind that naturally follows from the accumulation of the aforementioned excess. Understandably, to offer the film as a cautionary tale- which I believe is intended- both sides of the contentment-equation need to be held side by side. But does this aspirational lifestyle need to be ‘sold’ to such an extreme? I guess we’re dealing with Gordon Gekko- an iconic beacon of risk and punctuated extravagance- so there was not going to be anything half-hearted.

 

Gekko & Jake

Gekko & Jake discuss Winnie

 

Timing of the releases

Upon some brief research there was something rather peculiar about the release dates of the two films. The original was released in late 1987, only months after the stock market crash- which, at the time was the largest single daily fall since 1929. Seems like a good time to release a film about Wall Street, right? Yes and no. Sure, the economic climate was well in need of a cautionary tale about the perils of greed and blind ambition. Yet, when devastation occurs, it does not seem especially engrossing to want to revisit the ‘wreckage’ as such; let alone pay money to visit the cinema to watch it on the big screen. This explains why, critically Wall Street (the original) performed very well, but box-office-wise, it was not an overwhelming big hit. Having said this, it did not perform poorly.

‘Money Never Sleeps’ was very much in the same category: being post Global Financial Crisis. Again, and particularly in the US, who would want to re-observe the wreckage that occurred when countless individuals lost houses and investments as a result of the corporate greed that is captured in the film? It makes me wonder about the motives behind the production. Granted, the notion of ‘striking while the iron is hot’ may apply to some things- but maybe not so much when it comes to global financial crisis. It’s not exactly the most natural thing to celebrate and tell your friends about. The chances of a resulting viral-word-of-mouth situation occurring, in such cases like Avatar and Inception was very unlikely.

5 things I liked

1. Michael Douglas

There is absolutely no denying the brilliance of the man. The timing of his delivery, his piercing eyes, and his general poignant presence were perfect. He has an uncanny means of delivering lines that would otherwise come across as cliché, yet the words emerge with such depth and philosophical intensity. It’s a rare and amazing skill. There is a scene where Douglas as “Gordon Gekko” delivers a speech after leaving jail. After discussing the current climate of finance, he offers three words of warning and advice (SPOILER ALERT): “…. (as the audience wait is eager anticipation)…. Buy… My… Book….”. The audience busts out in laughter and applause. Only Douglas could pull this off.

2. A Few of Shia LaBoeuf’s scenes

I was naturally a little worried about LaBeouf and his ability to fit into this iconic genre. However, as it turns out, he has a great deal of intensity of his own. Whilst there were a few ‘relational’ scenes that i thought were a little ‘bleh’- a technical word meaning ‘lackluster’ for those uninformed. One scene I really liked was when Jake (LaBeouf) was attempting to gain a moral positioning of the tycoon Bretton James (Josh Brolin). SPOLIER ALERT. Jake asks: “So what’s your number?” Asking ‘how much money would you need to just walk away from the world of corporate finance?’. Bretton hesitates before answering: “…More.” The scene was performed well.

3. Boardroom scenes

There were a number of epic scenes where all the big finance players sat around a hug dark-stained wooden boardroom alongside US treasury to brainstorm solutions to the financial situations that they were facing. The lighting was dim. The colours were deep and rich. The characters were multiple and very interesting. These scenes displayed well the very intensity of these behind-the-scenes deals whilst picking up on the very human element of big business. These scenes were great in exhibiting the frailty of the human condition.

4. The Outside Cinematography

Being a film about Wall Street, there was a great deal of opportunity to capture the beauty of the urban architecture and high-rise landscape in New York. There was numerous scenes of sweeping (and extended) helicopter shots, beautifully displaying the glassy, tinted high-rise structures that are truly ‘Wall Street’. It’s rare for such an opportunity to exist to really focus in on this aesthetic. Of course, it’s so fitting as the attractive and glossy exterior is often no more than a front covering the true ‘moral hazard’ that exists underneath. Yet, with this below-the-surface discussion aside, the camera work on the urban landscape in New York city was superb!

5. The Circumstances surrounding the Production & Promotion

In August this year Michael Douglas appeared on David Letterman and announced that he had stage 4 throat cancer. The timing could not have been worse considering his final production and (later) promotion schedule. Yet amidst this terrible news, Douglas seemed buoyant and determined. It was incredible to have such as public figure openly discuss their potentially terminal condition, along with fears, and still continue as normal. It is unknown when he received this diagnosis exactly, but there are a few scenes in Money Never Sleeps when Gekko considers the value of time. He actually makes a reference to ‘cancer’.

Undoubtedly, the film will stand for much more than a sequel and a cautionary tale. In my mind, the film is all about character. Douglas takes the cake.

I give the film 4 out of 5 reels.

4 Film Reels

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