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Stockbrokers with souls

  • 30 September 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (M). Director: Oliver Stone. Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Frank Langella. Running time: 133 minutes.

As far as symbolism goes, in a film that takes as its backdrop the market meltdown that led to the Global Financial Crisis, the image of bubbles drifting and bursting against the Manhattan skyline is pretty heavy-handed. Still, Oliver Stone has never been the most subtle of filmmakers.

That said, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, a timely sequel to Stone's seminal 1987 film Wall Street, is less a cautionary tale about the corrupting power of greed, than a human drama in which the consequences of financial wheeling and dealing are more of a plot device, than the point of the plot per se.

A focus on the fragility of human beings and their relationships begins during a prologue in which Gordon Gekko (Douglas) emerges from prison, aged, broke, friendless, and estranged from his family.

Venemous corporate raider Gordon was the villain of the original film, the events of which led to his incarceration. However in Money Never Sleeps he is something slightly more complex. Douglas' portrayal again displays the abrasive arrogance that was typical of the character, but there is also an air of weary wisdom about him, as if Gordon has grown a soul during his time behind bars.

Certainly, he seems to have become introspective about his former profession, and downright prophetic about the industry itself. Following a seven-year time-jump, we learn that while in prison he wrote a book, now published under the title Is Greed Good? (an inversion of his old philosophy, 'Greed is good'). The book predicts a financial cataclysm that will result from unrestrained speculation. The year is early 2009.

Gordon's new mantra is that time is a greater commodity than money. At least, so he tells Jake Moore (LaBeouf), the hotshot young trader who approaches him following a promotional lecture.

Jake, as it happens, is engaged to Gordon's estranged daughter Winnie (Mulligan). If she was at all aware of their meeting, she would not approve of it. But Gordon's reputation precedes him, and the astute and ambitious Jake can't resist a personal encounter. Besides, he's virtually family, right?

Gordon seems genuinely to want to reconnect with Winnie. So the two men form an alliance. In exchange for Jake's help in orchestrating a reunion, Gordon will help Jake take down Wall Street barracuda Bretton James (Brolin),