Oliver Stone’s Wall Street is entirely of its time: a note-perfect portrait of 1980s superficiality and money-lust appropriately channeled through a world where wealth and class can be bought and sold daily. It made a true star of Michael Douglas, who delivered an iconic performance as Gordon Gekko, the cold-hearted, crazy-rich corporate raider who takes a young trader under his wings and teaches him the not-so-legal tricks of the trade — a move with dangerous consequences for mentor and protégé.
Stone’s sequel treads similar waters. Flash forward 20-odd years and the seemingly reformed Gekko is fresh from prison and the author of a book detailing past indiscretions. He’s also estranged from a daughter (Carey Mulligan), who just happens to be engaged to a financial wunderkind named Jake (Shia LaBeouf) who has familiar yet decidedly less corrupt ambitions.
When Jake desires to take down a ruthless executive (Josh Brolin) responsible for the death of a father-figure colleague, he turns to Gekko, who helps Jake in exchange for a family reunion. The merger threatens to destroy everything that Jake holds dear, both personally and professionally.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps tries to follow in its progenitor’s footsteps as the story of a youth torn between right and wrong while working under a powerful man, all framed by commentary on the current state of financial affairs. In that regard, the film almost succeeds, despite Gekko being a poorly written, pale shade of his once charismatic self and Stone clunkily beating viewers over the head with obvious metaphors.
And it falters when love enters the picture. Too much time is devoted to the rocky relationship between Jake and Gekko’s daughter. Though vital to the plot, the affair unnecessarily drags a momentum propelled by back-stabbings and malfeasance. If Stone would have kept his eye on the money and out of the bedroom, the film could have been an interesting continued reflection on societal and financial ills. Instead, it’s just another forgettable sequel. Grade: C-