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David Poland

By David Poland

Mini-Review: Wall Street 2

I wish I could say that Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was a worthy successor to Oliver Stone’s classic. It’s not. And mostly because it, not unlike The Godfather 3, misses the heart of what made the first film work… a story that both illuminated the mysteries of Wall Street and was clear enough to resonate with the audience.

It was probably too soon for this film – which was also an issue with W, though I thought that film was a bit more successful in its goals – as the Wall Street crisis of 2008, still going, hasn’t quite been crystallized. The pieces are here, but they seem kinda thrown together hours before shooting and don’t get as clear as they need to be. Josh Brolin‘s Bretton James is the leading example of this. He’s an interesting character with multiple motives in play throughout his arc, but instead of representing the dark side of Wall Street’s smile-while-you’re-stabbing-others culture, he becomes party to some convoluted revenge plot out of a lighthearted heist comedy in which the victim is getting his comeuppance from decades earlier… but not a good one.

Likewise, Carey Mulligan‘s character, daughter of Gekko, is a Rubber Stamp Woman character, there as a whinny Greek Chorus to the men, willing to do as she is told when push comes to shove. What a waste. Personally, I would LOVE to see a movie with a seriously considered character of a young woman who lived in the shadow of That Guy and has real human reactions to that experience. What is it really like to be pre-TV Ivanka Trump… or one of Spitzer’s daughters… or Lizzie Grubman? We get only the surface and too much fake mystery that turns out not to be mysterious, but leads to a weird passivity when things change.

The movie doesn’t have the courage to make Gordon Gekko a better man than the ones who followed him to Wall Street leadership. The movie doesn’t have the courage to make Gekko, in clear terms, an equivalent to what followed him. Really, it does two stories, which don’t really add up. First is the “Gekko Returns & How With He Regain His Position” movie and the second is the “Shia learns just how ugly Wall Street can be, but never really confronts how ugly he is when the movie starts.” Neither really works on its own and neither really works as part of a whole.

All that said, it is a sequel, for better and worse. It’s an okay movie, but not a very good movie for the “betters,” like familiar characters and themes we go in already liking and some really good actors (including the odd casting of Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon as JEWS). On the “worse,” there is what feels like an indifference to really making the story work, perhaps an arrogance in trying to do too much in order to make a sequel better or more valuable than the original. So I didn’t hate the film. But man, was it frustrating.

I am an Oliver Stone fan. He is a maniac, but he is also a tortured artist. His best work in recent years has been as a documentarian and I expect that to continue. I may not agree with every view he has and chooses to discuss in his one-sided docs, but when he has a strong point of view, the work is always fascinating. WS:MNS is not.

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21 Responses to “Mini-Review: Wall Street 2”

  1. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    I like Stone, cast is good, but I just can’t generate any excitement whatsoever for this. I’d rather see Inside Job.

  2. Eric says:

    Does anybody really wonder what Oliver Stone has to say about the Wall Street of today? Stone’s time is past.

  3. As shocked as David Poland is says:

    “including the odd casting of Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon as JEWS”

    JEWS?!?!?! Gasp! How could they?!? After all, we all know that nobody who looks and sounds like Frank Langella or Susan Sarandon could ever, ever, ever, ever, be Jewish. Not even a quarter Jewish. Mine and Dave Poland’s personal rule is: if it doesn’t look like it would have appeared on a Der Sturmer poster, then I sure would never believe it’s Jewish.

  4. David Poland says:

    Oy. Drama.

    Have you seen the film? It’s not like they are playing people who simply turn out to be Jews. They are stereotypes, though Langella gets some more subtle moments and makes it into a nice turn.

    I can’t quite make out from your little rant what about this offends you so much. I would bet that we agree on 90% or more of what we think on the subject. But you seem to think you know my “personal rule” (as though I had one). Odd.

  5. As shocked as David Poland is says:

    Maybe we do agree – but if the complaint was that their characters veer off into stereotype too much, you couldn’t really figure that out from the line you wrote in the review.

  6. Bill Melater says:

    Just saw the movie…it was, as described above, disappointing in a few ways. Poland’s review is right on.

    True to his left-leanings, Stone neglects to indict the administration for bailing out Paulson and Geithner’s buddies at Goldman…a great opportunity missed to show how the government is only a bit less corrupt than the boys on Wall Street. And Poland is right on target in saying Gekko’s daughter folds like a cheap suit and sells out to both men, when she could have been given a backbone and rejected them both for their greed and self-absorption.
    My favorite moment – the Gekko and Fox reunion…well done! And bringing back the condo real estate agent made me laugh out loud! I’ll rate is 2.5 out of 5.

  7. Josh_A says:

    Stone isn’t exactly known for creating multi-layered female characters.

  8. IOv3 says:

    I am glad Bud Fox made an appearance but why did Oli have to go and “HOMICIDE THE MOVIE” Wall Street? What a horrible turn of events.

  9. berg says:

    i t seems that since perhaps Nixon and on Stone has gone for a Shakespearean angle to his films … look at the last ten years, Alexander, W. and now WSMNS. There is the thread of Gekko’s daughter (perhaps the weakest written character) and the thread of the Shia/Brolin revenge intrigue and then there is the part about the Wall St buy out which is coupled with the Austin Pendleton energy company sustainability … this is a complicated film and whether it works or not it is worth, in a speculative sense, ten You Agains’

  10. Brendan says:

    Just saw that movie and it is TERRIBLE. What a waste of money, I was ready to walk out of the theater just hoping it would get better — it won’t and the story or lack there of is as boring as pea soup.

    I’m an MBA and work in valuations and people (A) will not understand the inner workings of what the NYFED has to do with Wall Street. All he did was splash a couple of headlines in there that people have already read, the story has been told. He also throws in random finance terms to make the movie sound sophisticated when it fact was completely the opposite and only 2 percent of the audience or people who work in the industry would understand what an CDO ABS or credit default swap is…

    One last comment the music and random streaming tickers are stupid. They could have cut out 20 minutes only just by deleting those scenes.

    WIsh I could say I’ve only seen the original.

  11. Nice reference, and just the kind of thing that will keep me away from Wall Street 2. God, what a perfect (if allegedly accidental) finale Homicide had in May 1999 with ‘Forgive Us Our Trespasses’. And what a useless and counter-productive reunion we were forced to endure in February 2000. Still, nine months is a whole lot different than 23 years.

  12. wow says:

    Brendan, shut the fuck up “im an MBA and work in valuations”. Why are you wasting time on films like this; get your ass back to work and get those historical EV/EBIT figures ready.

  13. IOv3 says:

    Scott, yes there is a difference of time, but that Homicide movie remains my go to analogy for messing with a perfect ending. I have no idea why that movie exist, and no idea why Wall Street needed a sequel.

    Especially given the whole lack of Gecko, Gecko’s daughter being curbed, and freaking SHIA being in this movie. This might be weird to some but here it its: Shia no longer has the skills to be a serious actor. He can definitely do the hero thing and I do usually enjoy him in those roles, but the guy sucks as a serious actor. I am happy he got a lady out of the film but come on with that casting.

    Oh yeah WOW; that post is tremendous.

  14. Martin says:

    I agree with the comment above, TERRIBLE MOVIE! I really felt it was a chick flix with some CNBC specials (the last days of Lemhan) and a whole bunch of computers with screen shots of Bloomberg. I’m an investment banker and i was expecting to see something like the first movie.

    I was very dissapointed. Oliver Stone should shot himself in the balls after destroying such an awesome movie like Wall Street.

    Finally, I felt the whole story was focus around Shia, instead of Gekko which i believe is who everyone wanted to see (at least in my case). What about Winnie? Terrible caracter. Perhaps it would have been better if Winnie didn’t existed and Shia’s caracter was Rudy (Gekko’s beloved son) who was mad at Gekko or something.


  15. anghus says:

    Yeah. The first movie is only a ‘classic’ in hindsight. does not hold up, at all. almost laughable. stone’s work has not aged well.

  16. IOv3 says:

    Anghus, uh… no.

  17. Al E Ase says:

    Disagree about Shia. kid’s got chops

  18. Geoff says:

    Guess I’m in the extreme minority, here, but I quite dug the movie – the first Wall Street is one of my five favorite movies of all time and while I did not think this was nearly on that level, it was a nicely done continuation of the Gekko character. Not truly necessary, but fun – I would compare it to The Color of Money as a lighter weight 20 year plus followup to The Hustler.

    The writing is pretty good and all of the performances are pretty good – Shia is fine, can people get over it? He plays an eager-beaver, idealistic, Jewish kid who wants to make money and save the world – it’s not really that much of a stretch. You buy EVERY scene that he does with Douglas because of that. And let’s not forget Charlie Sheen from the original – he was solid too, but I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say that LeBouf could be a slight upgrade as an actor over him.

    Josh Brolin is great – man, he can play villains for the next 20 years and I’ll love it.

    The movie is pretty over-stuffed and probably about 25 minutes too long, but Stone keeps it moving and for those complaining about the uber-obvious visual metaphors (yes, the bubble stuff is WAY too overdone), that really is nothing new for Stone. But come on with the PG-13 – considering how intense things get, especially in those Federal Reserve meeting scenes, the movie NEEDED some serious profanity. It should have been wall-to-wall F-bombs like the first movie.

    I really liked the new Eno/Byrne music throughout – nice touch to keep with the original and the end credits, man. I just went about crazy when “This Must Be the Place” started playing – great song from the first movie and probably my favorite Talking Heads song.

    Is it Aliens or Empire Strikes Back? Not at all. But I found the movie a worthy successor.

  19. Paul says:


  20. AlphaEagle says:

    Terrible! I am so disappointed. Money never sleeps. But I did sleep! Boring and disappointing. I was expecting to see “Gekko in true form, coming back with a bang! An episode of “Sponge Bob is more entertaining!!

  21. AlphaEagle says:

    Yo if you are a True “Gekko” fan who watches wall street over 1000 times. You would never make that comment, that WS2 was good. It was not! Wall Street VHS stayed (stuck)in my VCR. That’s my movie! Now Oliver Stone came and destroyed a classic!
    This was HORRIBLE. Pure TRASH. Oliver Stone need a slap upside his head!

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