The essential ingredient in movies is timing, so the return of iconic Gordon Gekko couldn’t be more welcome. Oliver Stone’s 1987 original “Wall Street” was intended as a cautionary tale but became, instead, an inspiration to financial power players.
This new chapter begins as Gekko (Michael Douglas) is released after spending eight years in federal prison. During that time, his wife and his son died, so his estranged daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) is all the family he has left. She’s living in a downtown loft with a hotshot renewable energy trader, Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), who’s so devoted to his mentor, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella), that when Zabel’s investment-banking firm (think Lehman Brothers) is caught in the global financial crisis and garroted by a detestable rival, Bretton James (Josh Brolin), Jake is determined to get revenge. Conveniently, newly reformed yet still cagey Gordon Gekko, hawking a best-seller called “Is Greed Good?” and warning against “speculation” and “leveraged debt,” shares his rancor and passes along shrewd knowledge of how the game is played. To him, it’s still a lethal game. And winning is everything.
Screenwriters Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff manage to make complicated financial machinations and jargon vaguely understandable to the layman and director Oliver Stone (“World Trade Center,” “W”) has assembled an almost pitch-perfect cast, including Susan Sarandon, Eli Wallach and the original “Wall Street” zealot Charlie Sheen in an amusing cameo that achieves some continuity. Having won an Academy Award for playing Gordon Gekko once, it’s quite possible that Michael Douglas could win a second Oscar for playing the same character 23 years later.
Photographed by Rodrigo Prieto (“Alexander”) and designed by Kristi Zea, the production values are skillfully splendid. So on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” is a compelling if cynical 9. It’s not only bullish but also one of the better sequels in years. After all, as Gekko tells Jake, “Money is the bitch who never sleeps” and, if you don’t pay attention, she can quickly disappear.