Sequels to iconic films are usually (Grease 2, anyone?) flops. However, what about Wall Street?
Wall Street‘s Gordon Gekko was, for many of the 1980s financiers, something of a god, a statuesque figure of greed, wealth and cunning that a generation of money and power-hungry bankers, stockbrokers and everyday businesspeople modelled themselves on. But is he a dinosaur in today’s recession-riddled economy, or still sharp enough to make a comeback?
This film very elegantly argues he’s definitely sharp enough. Savvy from the moment he walks free, Gekko (played by a very capable and suave Michael Douglas) is on the fast-track to once again becoming an influential tycoon; a role he’s pined for while in prison. It’s a film that will have you thinking about the banking world, and as it’s been released during the recession (known as the ‘Great Recession’ in the USA, it was the financial disaster that prompted director Oliver Stone to see the sequel as relevant and viable in the first place) it strikes a chord with many a viewer.
The cast are sure handed, and gel together in a realistic way that brings a human touch to a cold world full of cut-throat finance. Shia LeBoeuf plays our plucky anti-hero, investment banker Jake Moore, a pouting, angry youth with a hunger for bonus cheques and an even bigger one for ecologically-friendly energy sources. A bit of a contradiction in beliefs, but he pulls off the role with aplomb and his relationship with fiancée Winnie Gekko (played by Carey Mulligan, no prizes for guessing who her dad is) is similarly well performed.
Charlie Sheen‘s Bud Fox makes a brief appearance, in a nod to the fans of the original, and Frank Langella is heart-warming and loveable as Jake’s mentor, Lou. A special mention has to go out to the completely insane, but adorable Eli Wallach as ancient tycoon Jules Steinhardt. This film pulls no punches, and will illustrate to you the personal price people pay for a life in finance. It’s not all big bonuses and flash cars, but long hours and stress on an unbelievable scale.
The illustration of the recession is smart, with a lot of CGI presentations of numbers and charts that’s predictably on a downwards slant. There’s an air of menace to it all, and you’ll enjoy watching the big cocky bankers display their ignorance towards the market crash you know is coming.
The film deals with a lot of current issues, from the crash of the real estate market (a sub-plot in the form of Jake’s mother, a failing estate agent played by old favourite Susan Sarandon) to the excess of bankers and whether their bonuses are truly needed.
It’s also quite a long film, coming in at just over two hours, but the time passes easily and you’ll walk away feeling satisfied. Perhaps it lacks the impact and the decadence of the first film – we’re more used to the idea of bankers and billionaires being one and the same in 2010, and the ending of the film veers away from the “doom and gloom” that has been built up for its entire duration, which can be confusing.
But it’s a film that needs to be seen by anyone with an interest in finance. The world around us is very uncertain these days, says the press – the house market, loans, credit card debt – everyone’s affected in some way by the issues at stake. Even if you’re a lottery winner, deceit, power and manipulation are likely to be themes present in your life too.
So if you’re a fan of the original, give it a look. Douglas is enigmatic as Gekko, and LeBouf continues to mature into the serious, talented actor that we’ll likely be seeing on the big screen for decades to come. Let’s just hope the recession ends soon, both for our sake and because we might just see a trilogy emerge.