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Review

Oliver Stone film parallels current economic crisis on Wall Street

Michael Brun

September 30, 2010

I will admit that I had no idea what was going on during large chunks of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Global economics is a complicated subject, and this movie makes little effort to dumb it down for you.

And yet, even though I may not have understood all of the jargon and concepts in Money, I was never once bored while watching it. I left the theater feeling confused, but also plenty satisfied. A sequel to the acclaimed 1987 movie “Wall Street: Money Advances,” the narrative from the 1980s to the 21st century. The story is centered on Jack Moore (Shia LaBeouf), a young Wall Street trader with limitless ambition and the brains to match. He is the image of the modern capitalist, balancing his love for profits with his perceived obligations to the public good. Jake champions for green energy causes, but is quick to add that he is only doing it for the money.Jake’s profession puts him at odds with his girlfriend, Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan), a staunch liberal and daughter of the infamous Gordon Greed is Good Gekko (Michael Douglas). We learn that Gordon’s white-collar misbehavior in the first movie awarded him an eight-year prison sentence.

After he is released at the start of “Money,” Gekko returns to his Wall Street ways, a relic of 80s excess looking to cause some trouble in an age of recession and economic uncertainty. Director Oliver Stone is not one to avoid controversial subjects. In movies like “JFK,”  “W.” and “World Trade Center,” Stone has made timely relevance one of his most distinguishing trademarks.

His preference for hot-button issues is obvious in “Money.” Much of its plot is ripped straight from the headlines, with phrases like: too big to fail‚ and subprime lending, getting dropped at every turn.

Because of this, the movie rewards viewers who have been paying close attention to the news these past nine years. For those who have not been paying attention, do not feel discouraged. The performances in “Money,” are gripping even without a complete understanding of the dialog.

The verbal battles between LaBeouf and Josh Brolin (playing the role of the greedy villain) are superb, flowing with unlabored intensity under Stone’s taught direction.At their best, these confrontations will get your heart pounding just as hard as any bullet-flinging action scene could. Speaking of LaBeouf and his performance, I have to give him credit for this one. After seeing him in the latest “Indiana Jones” and “Tranformers” sequels (both among the worst movies of the past decade), I lost faith in him as an actor. So kudos to Stone for doing what both Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay failed to do; that is, finally giving LaBeouf a mature, intelligent role that would allow him to challenge and grow his innate talents.

“Money” is by far the best work in LaBeouf’s career. Douglas plays a limited role this time around, which is surprising considering how iconic the Gordon Gekko character has become. His performance is no less smarmy than the one that earned him a Best Actor Oscar in 1988, but the focus of Money is firmly on LaBeouf and Brolin. That said, his biggest scene is also one of the best in the movie. It consists of Gordon delivering a lecture at a college campus with the confidence and charisma of an economic messiah. Gekko may be a morally bankrupt goon, but I would absolutely love him as a business professor. If you want a slice of light entertainment, then “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” is not for you; but, if you crave a movie that will engage you emotionally and mentally, you will not be disappointed.

Think about doing some research before you go—it will make the experience even better.

Michael Brun is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.