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wallstreet“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” the long awaited sequel to Oliver Stone’s 1987 Oscar winning film Wall Street, is bogged down by financial claptrap. The explanation of how Wall Street ended up in Bailout City is almost endless. Money terms like short selling, moral hazard and derivative are tossed around like coins down a wishing well. Luckily a lot of the dialogue is delivered by good actors like Frank Langella and Michael Douglas, but ultimately the whole experience is kind of like watching an episode of Mad Money with better looking people.

Shia LaBeouf, continuing his resurrection of 1980s film franchises, plays Jacob Moore, a Wall Street trader with a conscious—a mix of greed and green. He’s ploughing millions of dollars into sustainable energy, but just as a major project is on the brink of a breakthrough the bottom falls out, his firm goes bankrupt and his mentor (Frank Langella) commits suicide. At home things are better. His girlfriend Winnie is devoted to him. She’s also the estranged daughter of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) the disgraced inside trader recently released from prison. Jacob and Gekko make a deal—a non financial one. Jacob will facilitate a reconciliation between father and daughter and Gekko will help find out who was responsible for the rumors that led to death of Jacob’s mentor. The question is, can Gekko, who once famously said, “Greed is good,” be trusted?

“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” shows how Wall Street fell due to crashing markets and clashing egos. Stone wants us to understand how it all fell apart, but unfortunately the inner workings of banks and big financial deals, at least the way they are presented here, aren’t that dramatic. Real people losing their jobs, their homes, their bank accounts, that’s dramatic, but a bunch of bankers sitting around talking about money is less so. Stone fails to listen to his own creation, Gekko, when he says, “it’s not about the money, it about the game.” Unfortunately the game is a little dull.

The cautionary message about greed and its effects is good and timely—“Bulls make money. Bears make money,” says Gekko, “Pigs get slaughtered.”—but it is wrapped up in a movie that is too earnest and a little odd tone wise. A meeting between Gekko and Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), the man responsible for sending him to jail in the first movie, is played for laughs which seems out of place, and frankly, kind of unlikely. Stone tries to cram too much story into the film—the father-daughter story, the meltdown angle, the revenge plot, the Gekko comeback—and with each of those plot shards comes a different tone.

Like the people who caused the financial meltdown that inspired this “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” director Stone seems to have lost perspective. He draws good performances from the cast—Douglas could be nominated for a second time for playing Gekko, and LaBeouf is very good—but allows the rest of the movie to get as bloated as Lehman Brothers on a spending spree.

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