During the opening scenes of “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” Oliver Stone’s stand-alone sequel to his 1987 hit “Wall Street,” you may have the feeling you’re not to going to understand a word of it.
That’s because the characters combine the jargon of Wall Street with the rat-a-tat speech patterns of native New Yorkers. But don’t despair. Your ear soon will become adjusted to the line delivery and you’ll realize that while the plot is about money manipulation, the film is about manipulating people. As Gordon Gekko says, “It’s not about the money — it’s about the game.”
Gekko (Michael Douglas, “Solitary Man”) served eight years in prison for insider trading and other unspecified crimes. He was ratted out by former friend Bretton James (Josh Brolin, “Jonah Hex”), who has now risen as high in the financial game as Gekko has sunk.
Gekko re-enters the public arena with a book titled “Is Greed Good?” The old charm is still intact, and those he used to know start getting worried.
One young tyro on the street is Jake Moore (Shia LeBeouf “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”), who wants to marry Gekko’s daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan, “Brothers”). She loves her dad, but hates his public persona. Jake wants to use Gordon’s guile to destroy Bretton for personal reasons, and Gekko wants to use Jake to insinuate himself back into Winnie’s life. Of course, the chance to repay Bretton for his treachery also holds a certain appeal.
Whether or not a desire to play the people in your life is a form of bonding is one of the questions Stone is asking. Winnie and Jake are both tempted by money that is offered to them to promote their good causes. She could use an influx of capital for the online newspaper she publishes, while Jake wants to support fusion research — but they both want to keep their hands clean.
The movie is loaded with terrific character acting from the likes of Frank Langella (“The Box”), Susan Sarandon (“The Lovely Bones”) and Eli Wallach (“The Ghost Writer”).
Stone provides a wicked portrait of the rich and richer with a scene at a charity banquet. The camera pans along a line of wealthy women, so hideously bejeweled and Botoxed that they look like their makeup was applied by a third-rate mortician. It’s the most frightening image you’ll see in any movie this Halloween season.
The script by Allan Loeb (“The Switch”) and Stephen Schiff (“True Crime”) tells you everything you need to know about the original picture to keep up. Stone has always been a troublemaker, and movie lovers are wealthier for it. Here, his message reminded me of a line from “Tom Jones”: “We are all as God made us, and many of us much worse.” —Doug Bentin