Get ready to be tired of the "Greed is good" refrain. Gordon Gekko returning to screens with his ludicrously ambitious (but as we now know, all-too-real) schemes. After nearly a year of delays, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps has finally made its way to theaters, starring Michael Douglas along with newcomer Carey Mulligan (and, yeah, maybe Shia LaBeouf too). Beyond the box office prospects, what is director Oliver Stone--whose last two projects have been explicit message films--trying to say in this sequel? Will there be more than just a superficial take on the 2008 financial crisis, or will his blockbuster sensibilities (nudged, no doubt, by 20th Century Fox) take over?
- It's Best When 'Bitter' concludes Time's Richard Corliss, whose 2200+ word review leaves few items untouched in the Gekko mythology. "The first two acts are a splendid vaudeville of fast talking and dirty dealing. At the climax, though, the picture becomes Wall Street Weak. It starts flailing toward an old Hollywood happy ending of revenge and redemption, forcing Gekko to commit a lapse repellent to his nature — a good deed — in his stab at reconstituting his family. A bleaker world-view, truer to the Street's carnivore ethics, would have demanded the abortion of one character's fetus as a final sting and judgment."
- 'Has Gordon Gekko Gone Soft?' "Sort of," writes Justin Chang at Variety. Oliver Stone, "seems well aware that the last thing most moviegoers want is a depressing dramatization or comprehensive overview of what has become a grim everyday reality. Thus, one tycoon's suicide by subway train notwithstanding, the overall mood is brisk, light, even playful." And the movie takes pains to "distill complex economic concepts into terms a non-finance major can keep up with."
- 'A Vintage Stone History Lesson' It's "the stock market meltdown and Fed intervention as seen through the eyes of the conspiracy buff who served up 'J.F.K.,' finds The Orlando Sentinel's Roger Moore. "Graphics explain hydrogen fusion and market 'corrections' and the whole 2008 meltdown is replayed by the same cable business news pundits who acted so clueless when it happened the first time." But then, the "script lets everybody down, the cliches pile up like junk bonds and you wonder if the cinema’s resident mad genius is just too angry or too confused by who to blame."
- Filled With 'Gasbag Caricatures' and 'Overblown Sermons' observes The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern, who nevertheless appeared to enjoy the movie. Gekko's "preachments sound awfully familiar at this juncture, and they're played against a crisis that unfolds much too slowly to capture the frenzy of the September 2008 meltdown." Still, "the story certainly holds your attention, but it's a dramatic bubble about a financial bubble."
- The Moral of the Story The Boston Globe's Ty Burr explains it nicely: "Greed is good, remember? Stupid greed, the kind that infected the lowliest investor and the US government alike, is just pathetic. In 'Money Never Sleeps,' Gekko and his creator have a good, hard laugh at all our expenses."
Wall Street 2 kinda seems like a live-action Vanity Fair article.