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'Wall Street' Forever?

Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," opens in theaters on Friday.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gordon Gekko is back on Wall Street in the second installment of Oliver Stone's downtown financial saga. "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" opens in theaters on Friday.

The movie begins in 2001, and Michael Douglas reprises the role of Gekko, as he is being released from prison after serving an eight-year insider trading sentence. Penniless, Gekko begins to pull himself out from under his rock in signature fashion--by screwing people over. He exploits his new found moral high road with the release of his book, "Is Greed Good?," a prudent capitalist counterthesis to his '80s mantra.

Carey Mulligan plays Gekko’s left wing blogging daughter. She is set to wed her eco-savvy investment banking beau, Shia LeBeouf, when director Oliver Stone ushers in his patriarch Gekko to subtly chronicle the lowly financial events of 2008.

“I mean, Oliver Stone is not a subtle filmmaker, right?” says film critic Dana Stevens, who is the host of Slate's The Culture Gabfest. “We should have figured this out by now. We don’t go to him for subtlety. We go to him for these big, sweeping brash morality tales and these conspiracy theories. And because the Wall Street crash lends itself to that, we all want to know how to feel about it and who to exact our revenge upon.”

Stevens adds that one of the good things about Stone's 2010 version of "Wall Street" is seeing Gekko again, and getting a look behind the downtown financial machine. It's the same feeling you get from the original 1987 "Wall Street"--excitement and even a bit of giddiness to see a glimpse behind the bespoke curtain.

“As reprehensible a character as he may be, he's a lot of fun to watch on the screen," Stevens says. "So, the movie has this weird affection for him. It sort of reminds me of the Anthony Hopkins character in the very last coda to "Silence of the Lambs," where you see him make his getaway and he makes this kind of mischievous call to Jody Foster implying that he's going to eat someone else for dinner that night.”

Bingo. But, how is New York's shadiest neighborhood portrayed in the new film in light of the global economical meltdown?

"I'm certain you would come out of it thinking twice about becoming a stockbroker,” says Stevens. “I think that it is probably more negative about the financial services industry than even the 1987 movie was. And that's saying a lot because that movie—for all we remember it, for the catch phrase 'Greed is good,' and the Gordon Gekko character—of course...is a scathing indictment of Wall Street."

Selling the old stockbroker swagger may not get people in movie theater seats, but don't forget, this is Hollywood. The stock market wouldn't have a place without New York City's backdrop of fortune seeking fodder. We are reminded of that in the opening credits of "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," which roll out with the jagged Manhattan skyline in juxtaposition to a spiking stock market index. Translation? New York is Wall Street. Wall Street is New York.

“As much as it's a morality question about Wall Street I think the movie is really in love with New York," Stevens says. "Oliver Stone loves real estate, he loved real estate in the first one, too. He's really interested in everyone's apartment and how did they buy it and how did they decorate it and how much did they get for it when they sold it…and so there's this kind of real estate pornography."

So that’s it. In Stone's new "Wall Street," don’t expect to see a broad social spectrum of the financial collapse. But do expect to see some svelte Eames on Eames action and a very small group of ridiculously rich people who watch their life’s work unravel before their very eyes. And, yes, Charlie Sheen drops in as Bud Fox, successful and with an armful of ladies in tow.

Updated 9/24, at 8:45 AM

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