From the outset, this didn’t look good. Why revisit a film, characters, a story from 23 years ago? The original Wall Street was of course an era-definer, a masterpiece of a sort that got right to the rotten heart of a moment in the history of Westernized society. You could, of course, say that now we’re all living with the inevitable consequences of that, still struggling to comes with a new economic reality, balance that with the needs of emerging economies … all this means that never has there been more of a need to return to the source of the ‘greed is good’ mantra. But, of course, it looks like creative death and speaks of a career on the slide. You don’t return to the scene of old triumphs like this unless your box office is flatlining and your ability to get a project off the ground is dead in the water.
That may not be entirely fair, but it’s how it looks. So the good things: Oliver Stone is no Aaron Sorkin, but he does have a capacity for making you feel more intelligent – spinning complex ideas into fast-moving plots which you don’t follow entirely, but somehow manage to keep enough of a handle on it to make you feel better about yourself. Michael Douglas may be treading water, but he does tread this type of water better than anyone else; no one does slimy grin and wink better than him. That’s about it, though.
There are at least 3 films in here – a love story/family drama; a drama-documentary on the economic crisis; and a morality tale for our times on big business and the climate meltdown. Not even a conspiracy theorist or a story-teller of the stature of Stone can pull all that together. It’s a film that is so much less than the sum of its parts that you can’t help but think you must have fallen asleep at the crucial moments: but you haven’t … as I said, it’s all quite gripping. It just doesn’t add up. And the ending – it’s just an attempt to sugar-coat a pill that’s now so bland as to be irrelevant. It’s a shame really. A few things would have helped. Cut the film free from the baggage of the first. Tell a new story, in a new context – and focus on one theme. You don’t need to cover everything in order to say something. Wall Street should have been put to bed. Now it’s a sleeping giant.