Saturday, 9 October 2010
I have only seen the first "Wall Street" film once, about ten years ago. I remember quite enjoying it, and a few things have stuck in my head ever since: the scene where Michael Douglas' hilariously comic-book monikered Gordon Gekko gives his "Greed is Good" speech, the scene where Charlie Sheen gets arrested and breaks down as he is led through his offices with his co-workers looking on, and the bit where Sheen and Douglas meet in a park or something and all Gekko's seedy menace explodes in a couple of punches to Charlie Sheen's mush. That's about it.
So I wasn't chomping at the bit for this sequel. Oliver Stone hasn't made a good film in a long time, Douglas is all but retired, and young lead Shia LaBeouf is more at home dodging giant robots than engaging in insider trading. How good could it be?
The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is "not very".
The film is overlong, dramatically uninvolving, and bogged down in the machinations and vernacular of a world that most of us have nothing in common with and cannot relate to.
If you're interested in money and stocks and shares and stuff, then this may appeal to you the way that "The Fast and the Furious" appeals to petrol-heads, but I was left to amuse myself by chuckling at Oliver Stone's attempts to keep me interested and informed by having little animations appear whenever the cash-chat got too complex. It's like watching a financial advert from L'Oréal: "Concentrate girls, here comes the science part! Wall St. 2: your money's worth it!"
The flat drama isn't helped by the generally inert performances. Cutey Carey Mulligan seems to spend the whole film with big, fat tears rolling down her cheeks, Douglas feels like a shadow of his former self (which is perhaps the point, but it's not a lot of fun to watch), to the point where, during a Gekko speech, LaBeouf has to announce to the audience something like "this guy's awesome", because what he's saying is thoroughly un-gripping to us, but we need to know it's impressive to the characters.
LaBeouf himself isn't all that bad. He isn't all that good, playing simply a less nervy and wisecracky version of his usual persona, but this is another cinematic failure which shouldn't be solely blamed on him, but probably will be.
Josh Brolin is appropriately oily, but bears the extra menace of looking like he would beat the shit out of you if you didn't do business with him, Eli Wallach is hilarious in a tiny recurring role, and Frank Langella is suitably morose and pitiful as a past-it broker.
The plot drifts along relatively aimlessly towards an all-too-predictable twist, and then inexplicably twists back on itself to deliver one of the most deliriously inappropriate happy endings of all time. Why spend so long establishing the essentially selfish nature of "the game between people", only to inexplicably pussy out in the last five minutes?
Add to this the typically overwrought stylistic tics that Stone throws at you, and you have a movie so tonally imbalanced as to be completely ludicrous. When LaBeouf is in a public toilet and the spectre of his mentor appears over his shoulder like fucking Obi Wan Kenobi checking out his junk, I was guffawing like a deficient. LaBeouf may have been at the sink at the time, but my mind says urinal.
Oh, and Charlie Sheen pops up for a cameo which amounts to little more than a facelift-off with Douglas for two minutes. It's not funny. And Stone himself is in it a couple of times. He looks like he eats children.