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'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps' is entertaining if not realistic

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While the original Wall Street (featuring Michael Douglas' now famous "Greed is good" speech) Michael Douglas and Shia LaBeouf in "wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" Photo courtesy of:www.altfg.com/.../ was a microcosm for 1980's excess, it also foreshadowed later scandals such as fall of Enron  and its masterminds (Michael Milken, Kenneth Lay, etc.) as well as Ponzi schemers such as Bernie Madoff.

The 2008 financial crisis  still lingers fresh in the minds of Americans. And as a result, Oliver Stone's  Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is probably one of the most relevant sequels (and future time pieces) in recent memory.

It's October 2001, and disgraced financial mogul Gordon Gekko (Douglas) is released from prison (with the same "Miami Vice looking" cell phone he had in the original). Fast forward to June 2008, and Gekko is now an author who discusses the impending financial bottom about to hit the US economy during speaking engagements.

In attendance at one of these engagements is Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), an aspiring and idealistic trader whose mentor Louis Zabel (Frank Langella) ends up committing suicide after his failure to save his company from finacial ruin. Moore happens to be engaged to Gekko's daughter Winnie (Carrie Mulligan), who is on the outs with her father after blaming him for the overdose of her brother Rudy (while he was incarcerated).

Upon meeting after the speaking engagement, Moore mentions to Gekko how he suspects foul play on behalf of his new boss Bretton James (Josh Brolin) regarding circumstances culminating in Zabel's death. Oddly enough, James is a former adversary of Gekko's and is the one primarily responsible for sending him to the slammer. Clearly having an axe to grind, Gekko agrees to help Moore take down James in exchange for helping him reconcile with Winnie. 

What ensues is a tale of redemption, conviction, and betrayal that overall makes the premise of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps  interesting if not just a little unrealistic- even for a movie. Douglas picks up right where he left off as the charasmatic and complicated Gekko. Gekko sees a younger version of himself in Moore. However, despite prison apparently humbling him, Gekko's deeds always seem to require something in return- just like a business transaction. There is always more to his character than meets the eye- right until the very end.

LaBeouf is clearly cast in the mold of  Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) from the original Wall Street and Brolin's character James serves as a modern day Gekko. However, while Douglas brings a trace of humanity to the role of Gekko that makes him (for the most part) likeable, there is nothing likeable about the ruthless and apathetic James, who at times makes Gekko look like a choir boy.

Speaking of Sheen, he reprises his role in a brief encounter with Gekko. Although their interaction is brief, it adds a sense of validity to the movie and in a way, brings things full circle by connecting the two films.

While not as epic as the original, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is entertaining, goes by rather quickly, and won't make you sleep at all. And with today's society still recovering from the economic crisis of two years ago, time will tell if the movie is just as relevant as its predecessor in the years to come.

Rating: *** out of five stars

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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