(director: Oliver Stone; screenwriters: Allan Loeb /Stephen Schiff/based on characters created by Stanley Weiser and Mr. Stone; cinematographer: Rodrigo Prieto; editors: Julie Munroe/David Brenner; music: Craig Armstrong; cast: Michael Douglas (Gordon Gekko), Shia LaBeouf (Jake Moore), Josh Brolin (Bretton James), Carey Mulligan (Winnie Gekko), Eli Wallach (Julie Steinhardt), Susan Sarandon (Sylvia Moore), Frank Langella (Louis Zabel), Charlie Sheen (Bud Fox), Vanessa Ferlito (Audrey); Runtime: 133; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Edward R. Pressman/Eric Kopeloff; 20th Century Fox; 2010)

“Presents a timely update on how Wall Street does business.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Oliver Stone (“Platoon”/”JFK”/”Nixon”) returns to the world where in the Reagan era “greed is good” and presents a timely update on how Wall Street still does business as seen through the eyes of a young trader. He again films a cautionary morality tale on a Wall Street crash that’s filled with the same overstatements that was in his 1987 Wall Street, warning us about excess. Screenwriters Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff keep the trader jargon clear enough for the lay person but never make things edgy, while cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto keeps the visuals cinema friendly and easy to look at.

After spending eight years in a federal prison disgraced inside trader Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is released in 2001, but there’s no one waiting for him. While in prison his wife and druggie son died and his idealistic twenty-something daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) refuses to see him, blaming dad for her brother’s death (which is close enough to Douglas’s real life situation). Winnie runs a non-profit leftist blogger website and lives in comfort in a downtown Manhattan loft with feisty Wall Street trader Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), who idolizes his old school old-timer mentor, co-founder of a big banking house that resembles Lehman Brothers, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella). When the action shifts to 2008 Louis’s firm is destroyed because of bad investments and he commits suicide by jumping in front of an oncoming train. Thereby Jake seeks out his girlfriend’s father as a replacement role model, even though warned by Winnie not to trust her reptilian dad. Gordon has reinvented himself by writing a book in prison called Is Greed Good? and going on the circuit as a motivational speaker warning the public that the market has not changed since his days except to get even more greedy.

In a cutesy way Jake, who has suddenly developed an interest in green energy, and the unrepentant Gordon, the ultimate capitalist without idealism or scruples to hold him back, make business deals, whereby the kid manipulates Winnie to reunite with her estranged dad and in trade Gordon uses his contacts to find out what really brought down Lou’s company so the kid trader could get even with the baddies. Which leads to the role chief shark of the giant Churchill Schwartz investment house, the cocky unethical Bretton James (Josh Brolin), the film’s villain, played in ruining the decent Lou’s company.

Stone fills the story with a blend of romantic melodrama and of the predatory activity of the traders, and lets off some steam by finger-pointing at just about everyone who made a crooked buck from the Wall Street shenanigans and took the public for a ride. It lets us know that we’re not out of the woods yet in this financial global mess that was created by those who wield power (media, government, politicians, Wall Street, banks, foreign investors, real estate brokers and so on), while letting us know that alternative energy might be the answer to our energy crisis in the future but it can only be financed by the same cut-throat capitalists who finance fossil fuels. The unhappy message delivered is that everyone pays the price when those in power succumb to moral hazard.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps