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Originally published September 23, 2010 at 3:02 PM | Page modified September 23, 2010 at 3:27 PM

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Movie review

'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps': Same old bank of ideas funds Oliver Stone's sequel

A review of "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," starring Michael Douglas in the role of Gordon Gekko, which he made famous in the go-go 1980s.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2.5 stars

'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,' with Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Frank Langella, Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon. Directed by Oliver Stone, from a screenplay by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff, based on characters created by Stanley Weiser and Stone. 127 minutes. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and thematic elements. Several theaters.

MOVIE REVIEW 2.5 stars

Four words: Same movie, better cellphones.

"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," Oliver Stone's sequel to his 1987 "Wall Street," hits many of the same notes as the first movie: It's the tale of a smooth older mentor and an eager young protégé, set against a backdrop of finance-world greed and acres of dark-suited men intoning stock figures. And, if you're not looking for anything particularly profound, it's entertaining, thanks to the zest of the cast and the stylish look of the film.

Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas, sly and purry as ever) walks away from jail in the movie's 2001 opening scene, brick-like cellphone in hand. Seven years pass and he's back on top, with a new book ("Is Greed Good?") and untold millions. But the money can't buy what he wants: a relationship with his estranged daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan). She lives with her boyfriend Jake (Shia LaBeouf), an up-and-coming young trader who hears Gekko speak and is enamored by his message. Drawn into Gekko's orbit — the older man hopes to use the younger as a conduit to Winnie — Jake gets caught up in the world of deal making, not necessarily to his benefit.

Though the financial climate has changed significantly since 1987 — scary-looking bankers, in the new movie, speak in ominous tones about the end of the world — Gekko hasn't changed much, and neither has Stone: Jake seems a lot like Bud Fox, the young hero of "Wall Street" played by Charlie Sheen. (Sheen, amusingly, makes a brief cameo in "Money Never Sleeps." "Haven't seen you in years," Douglas casually deadpans.) And though Mulligan's presence gives the new film less of a business focus, her character isn't thought out. We never get a sense of why Winnie and Jake are together, or what they see in each other — it's clear that they want different things from life, and appear to have gotten together in some screenwriting-workshop exercise.

But it's great fun to watch Douglas stalking around making pronouncements about fishermen (it makes sense in context, more or less), or leeringly telling Jake on the subway, in a saltier variant on the movie's subtitle, that "Money's the bitch that never sleeps." LaBeouf exudes young-movie-star earnestness; Mulligan finds some sweetness in her underwritten role. And the supporting roles are wonderfully cast: Frank Langella as Jake's noble mentor; Susan Sarandon as his flashy mother; Josh Brolin as an arrogant investment banker. ("What's your number?" someone asks him. The reply: "More.")

All this helps carry us over Stone's excesses in the film, as he struggles with two movies in one: a serious statement about the banking industry in the late years of this decade, and a popcorn-y melodrama about an ambitious young man and a troubled family. The second movie works far better. "It's not about the money," says Gekko, smoother than a lake at sunrise. "It's about the game."

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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