Gordon Gekko is back, baby, and Michael Douglas plays the hell out of him. That’s the good news. Everything else in Oliver Stone’s sequel to the original Wall Street, the 1987 movie that won Douglas an Oscar and cultural immortality, smacks of moral rectitude. Where’s the pleasure in that?
Gekko’s high-rolling mantra of “greed is good” didn’t make him a role model. It made him a glam symbol of what financial corruption could buy you. While the other wolves of Wall Street snuck around, Gekko flaunted it. He was sin incarnate, a villain you had to love. The sequel picks up with Gekko getting out of jail for insider trading and into a world where the banks make him look like a piker. We get it.
We get how wrong it is for young market trader Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) to choose Gekko as a mentor. Jake should be listening to Gekko’s estranged daughter, Winnie (the wondrous Carey Mulligan stuck in scold mold), who wears Jake’s engagement ring and runs a lefty blog. He should persuade his mom (Susan Sarandon, with a yenta accent) to reject nasty real estate and go back to nursing. He should invest in clean energy. Blah, blah, blah.
Stone used to know in his gut that a sermon belongs in the pulpit, not the multiplex. No more. Even Douglas and Josh Brolin, in a juicy turn as a gladiator of the New Economy, can’t save an ending that drips sentiment. Maybe money never sleeps, but this missed opportunity of a movie will have audiences dozing.