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Barry Wetcher/20th Century Fox

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Movies

Issue: "On the rails," Oct. 9, 2010

The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, the Apostle Paul taught, and director Oliver Stone aims to prove him right in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the sequel to the 1987 film Wall Street.

In 2008, corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) reenters society shamed and supposedly penniless after spending eight years in prison for insider trading. His daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) refuses to speak to him and blames him for her addict brother's suicide. Despite her left-wing passion against all things capitalist, she lives with Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), a trader at a huge investment banking firm.

Jake has soul. You can tell because his pet project is building a plant that somehow converts sea water into power, "giving off more energy than you put into it," the holy grail of left-wing environmentalism. When Jake's mentor is ruined, greed and revenge drive Jake to collude secretly with his fiance's father. Gekko, of course, is just as greedy and untrustworthy as he was before prison.

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Coming from Oliver Stone, the movie (rated PG-13 for language) is less anti-capitalist than one would expect. He respects Wall Street but takes shots not only at the firms whose bad loans triggered the mortgage collapse of 2008, but also at the individual greed of people buying houses they could not afford or taking credit on their inflated housing values for fancy vacations and cars. The government bailout of financial institutions doesn't fare much better. On the other hand, Jake's ocean fusion plant is blocked by a greedy CEO because "oil is limited and water is everywhere," a favorite conspiracy theory of the left.

Because the overly ambitious storyline lacks clarity, the film lacks the pulse-pounding energy of the original. What heart there is comes from the family drama among Jake, Winnie, and Gordon. Greed once again tempts Gordon to betray his family for his mistress, money. She never sleeps, he says, and slips away if you pay attention to something else. His love of money leads to very evil things indeed.

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