I should be at an immediate disadvantage when it comes to seeing Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps because I’ve never had much of a relationship with money – it has eluded me thoughout my life. Nevertheless, I was drawn to see the film this week not least because I vividly remember seeing the original back in 1987 when I was a student. I may have been a student of English Literature and the Classics and someone who marched against the Poll Tax, but that didn’t stop the Capitalist 80s from trying to seep their way into my veins. I blame it on Capital City (does anyone remember that, Douglas Hodge fans?).
So I left University in 1990 and for a short time entered the financial services world in the City (London) until my employer informed me that ‘You are the joss stick burning sort’ (which, incidentally, I wasn’t) and suggested that I accept a large amount of money to go off and find myself. I gratefully and with no hard feelings at all took him up on it. I toured the US and then made a bit of peace with myself on a Kibbutz in Israel. That’s when I took up digging holes in the ground for a ‘living’.
When I first made the acquaintance of Gordon Gecko back in 1987 I was an entirely different person from who I am now, 23 years later, and so it was rather interesting to meet him again. My first impression was that Michael Douglas is a phenomenal scene-stealing actor and every minute he was on that screen I was riveted. What a fine actor Michael Douglas is. My other thought was what on earth is Shia LaBeouf doing persisting with that outrage that is known as Transformers. He is far too good for that. And if he wants to spend screentime with the fabulously talented Carey Mulligan then he should turn his back on that awful franchise. A goodlooking robot does not a good film make.
I’d have a hard job explaining the plot of this Wall Street sequel to you. My lack of financial acumen, observed by my first employer, has not improved since 1987 and so I just sat there through some scenes while admiring the New York City scenery. The relationship between Gordon Gecko and his daughter was not as satisfyingly investigated as it could have been because Carey Mulligan was playing the Wronged Daughter and so there wasn’t much opportunity for her to do much but weep and look wronged (while displaying an excellent accent). But you could see why Shia’s character Jake would fall for Gecko – Jake has a good cause (it could save the world) but he needs an enormous amount of money to do it – even though the film made the kind of moral judgements that were missing from the original. In 1987 Gecko was a hero, in 2010 that’s not possible although, ironically, in 2010, he has to be more likeable. In 1987, what mattered was Gecko and his Greed. In these days there must be the chance of salvation. Not necessarily a good (or even interesting) thing in a film about Gordon Gecko.
There are touches of real sadness and there are moments of splendour as the city and its buildings, and the hole that was the Twin Towers, move around the frames. However, and I can’t hold back here, I thought the music and score were absolutely bloody awful.
I thoroughly enjoyed the cameo of Charlie Sheen – it was good to see Bud again – and the appearance of director Oliver Stone made me smile (not necessarily in a completely good way) and I was delighted to see Susan Sarandon whom I wasn’t expecting.
But as I sat and watched an enjoyable two-hours of cinema, I couldn’t help but think what a different world it is from the one that Gecko ruled 23 years ago. And although it was good to reacquaint myself with such a memorable figure, I couldn’t help but think that he’d been brought back at the wrong time. Because the times are so different now, Shia’s Jake could never be as compromised as Charlie’s Bud. Indeed Jake’s mother is told to go back to nursing. I doubt anyone else in the movie would have done such a thing. But it was a necessary consequence of the modern times.
What I find amazing though is that all these years on, and without any rewatches, I remember the original Wall Street vividly and any disappointment I might feel about the lack of malicious nastiness in the sequel is overshadowed by my pleasure in seeing Gordon Gecko again and realising once more what a charismatic and compelling actor Michael Douglas is. And I wish him well.