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Vol. LXIV, No. 41
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TRYING THIS SCENE THIS WAY?: Director Oliver Stone (right), on the set of “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” makes some suggestions to Gekko (Michael Douglas) about how Stone envisions the way the scene should be played.

Wall Street — Money Never Sleeps: Stone and Douglas Reunite in Sequel Well Worth the Wait

Kam Williams

Michael Douglas won an Academy Award in 1988 for his captivating performance as Gordon Gekko, the ruthless corporate raider best known for adding the avaricious credo “Greed is good!” to the lexicon of the Me Generation. Although more than two decades have elapsed, this film, by Michael Douglas and director Oliver Stone, is a timely sequel aimed at the concerns of today’s troubled generation (“No Income, No Jobs, or Assets”) and also at the concerns of Baby Boomers. But where Gordon was a contemptible character in the original movie, in the sequel, he is an antihero in search of deliverance.

The movie unfolds in a series of flashbacks, with narrator Gekko reflecting upon his parole in 2002 after serving an eight year sentence for insider trading. This sequence effectively establishes how the disgraced white collar criminal had not merely fallen from grace but no longer had his finger on the stock market’s pulse.

Among the personal effects returned to him upon his release is a large obsolete cell phone that is as thick as a brick. And later that day, when he leaves the prison, the stretch limo idling outside the gates is not waiting for him but for a flamboyant gangsta’ rapper. How the mighty have fallen!

Fast-forward to the present, where we find Gordon on a promotional tour for Is Greed Good?, his new best seller that forecasts doom for the deregulated financial services industry because of its capitulation to a culture of corruption. “The mother of all evil is speculation,” the rehabilitated crook announces during a lecture at Fordham University, adding, “like cancer, it’s a disease, and we have to fight back.” That line seems to be a reference to Michael Douglas’ real-life battle with a malignant throat tumor.

Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) is in the audience; he is an ambitious trader at Keller Zabel, a thinly-veiled caricature of the bankrupted Bear Stearns brokerage house. Jake also happens to be the boyfriend of Winnie Gekko (Carey Milligan) who is an anticapitalist tree hugger. Winnie still blames her father for her sibling’s suicide.

After the speech, Jake approaches Winnie’s father to tell him of his impending engagement to Gekko’s daughter. Gordon counters by asking his future son-in-law to help arrange a reconciliation with his estranged daughter. Ever the deal maker, Gekko also talks a little shop, suggesting that they figure out exactly how Keller Zabel had failed.

Their investigation points to a competing hedge fund manager Bretton James (Josh Brolin), whose manipulation of the market pushed Jake’s late mentor (Frank Langella) into committing suicide by leaping in front of a subway train. Jake has conveniently found a suitable replacement for his deceased mentor, which will work provided Winnie is kept unaware of Jake’s alliance with her father, whom she sees as the devil incarnate.

What ensues is a fictionalized account of the 2008 stock market crash told from the perspectives of the pivotal players, and touching on a host of universal themes ranging from love and betrayal to revenge and redemption. Crime might not pay, but greed is still good!

Excellent (4 stars). Rated PG-13 for brief profanity and mature themes. Running time: 127 minutes. Studio: 20th Century Fox.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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