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wall street - money never sleeps

Wall Street - Money Never Sleeps
Reviewer: Ricardo Barberini
Director: Oliver Stone
Cast: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Muligan, Eli Wallach, Susan Sarandon

The original movie “Wall Street” was made in 1987, in the midst of a major financial crisis caused by the combined greed of Wall Street financiers and Savings and Loans bankers that caused a major recession in the country.  Most people under 45 will not remember the movie or the times.

In the original movie, Gordon Gekko, a ruthless Wall Street tycoon is eventually caught and sent to jail for stock manipulation leaving behind his wife and two young children.

The current movie starts in 2008 with Gordon’s release from Jail.  He faces a bleak future with no money and an estranged daughter who blames him for her mother’s madness and her brother’s death by drug overdose.

The daughter, Winnie, (Carrie Mulligan) runs a website that uncovers government and corporate secrets.  Winnie is engaged to Jake Moore who is a stock broker/analyst at a major money management fund headed by an old-fashioned investment banker, Louis Zabel, (Frank Langella) who has few friends and many enemies.  Louis Zabel’s major enemy being the firm of Churchill Steinhardt headed by two of his rivals; Bretton James (Josh Brolin) and Jules Steinhardt (Eli Wallach.) 

Remember that 2008 was the beginning of the financial meltdown that put millions out of work.  Yet major banks and insurance companies made out like bandits.  Many smaller firms went under.  The ones who came through were the likes of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and the ones who failed were weaker financial houses like Lehman Bros.

Louis Zabel’s firm seems similar to Lehman Brothers.  The big guys like Churchill Steinhardt are trying to use the financial crisis to bankrupt the company and buy it for pennies on the dollar.

Louis Zabel facing utter defeat commits suicide.  Jake Moore goes to work for the Churchill Steinhardt hoping to save his pet project, which is a fusion project to make electricity from seawater.  But, he is manipulated and double-crossed by Bretton and fired.

Meanwhile Gordon and Jake have developed a friendship of sorts. Jake helps Gordon, to unlock his Swiss bank account and get access to his secret stash of 100 million dollars bank account. 

Things look bad for Jake near the end.  His fiancée walks out on him after realizing that he has been helping Gordon. His mother loses all her money on real estate speculation and goes back to nursing.  He is left penniless and alone.

With Gordon’s help, acting behind the scene, the government discovers that Bretton has been guilty of “insider trading” and he is sent to jail.

Gordon who has made hundreds of millions since getting his hand on his Swiss money, comes back to reconcile with his daughter and save Jake’s pet fusion project.

The movie ends on a happy note in mid 2010.

Michael Douglas is as energetic and charismatic as ever.  He has been consistent in delivering great performances even in otherwise mediocre movies such as the Basic Instinct.  We are glad that he is still strong and capable of delivering the goods.

I am not a fan of Oliver Stone because I think he uses his tremendous talent to deliver his somewhat quirky agenda.  Movies about Nixon, the Kennedy assassination and George Bush come to mind.  His direction is generally flawless and as a director, I would put him well ahead of the other icon of the time; Martin Scorsese.   I know they work on different dimensions, one given to blood and gore and the other to historical points of view.

Shia LaBeouf is perfectly cast as the hapless patsy (pawn) who thinks he is pulling the strings while he is being manipulated by the smarter characters; Josh Brolin and Mike Douglas.

Veteran actor Eli Wallach at 95 is going strong proving that age is no barrier to success.  His portrayal of quirky Jules Steinhardt is a delight to watch.

Carrie Mulligan as Gekko’s daughter is well cast, as is Josh Brolin as the evil egotistical Bretton James.

By the way, before we forget, Oliver Stone as the somewhat gullible investment banker proves that he can act as well as direct.  And he is photogenic enough to be a real movie star!

I will give this movie three stars.  Even if you do not understand the jargon and the background just concentrate on the acting and the direction.  The story is about evil and greed on Wall Street and how one flawed character, (Gordon Gekko), can step in to save a few people and pay back those who betrayed him years ago.

For more information about the famous con men who managed to fool the public AND the government click on this link.

P.S. As Michael Douglas character, Gordon Gekko, states in the beginning of the movie, there are many acronyms and buzz words on Wall Street such as short selling, insider trading etc that only 75 people in the world can understand. That is true to a certain extent. But, that is how Wall Street collectively pulls the wool over the eyes of Main Street America. Even a Democratic controlled Congress cannot rein in the power and the excess.  The super rich who control the wealth can constantly create new parties and diversions to distract the gullible citizens.  One of these days, we will explain all the different acronyms and how they work.

In the meantime, you can read the following article by Jane Mayer  of the New Yorker magazine to educate yourself about how the people are being manipulated.