At one point in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, an aging Gordon Gekko states that prison makes a man think, implying he's no longer the "Greed is Good" spokesman of the 1980s. Many are unhappy with the kinder, gentler Gekko, but this is just nostalgia for the original film - I mean people do change - Right? The economy has changed considerably since the pre-Internet era of 1987, but the basics of capitalism remain very much the same. Oliver Stone's exceptional sequel to Wall Street is the first motion picture to take on the financial crisis of 2008 from the perspective of those that created the mess. This is a topical film with fine performances from all despite an at times clunky script.
Any extensive explanation of the plot would take way too much time and is unnecessary. After leaving prison, Gekko becomes an author and talking head on CNBC. Meanwhile, his estranged daughter played by Kerry Mulligan, is engaged to a young hotshot trader played by Lebouf. Unlike his counterpart played by Charlie Sheen in the original, Lebouf's character is not consumed with making money, but with finding alternative energy sources. Ever since the economic meltdown there has been much talk of saving the soul of capitalism so the writers decided to go with a more idealistic stock trader. The film's villain, a big bank CEO (think Bear Stearns, AIG etc) portrayed by Josh Brolin is two dimensional - a sort of Gekko lite.
At the film's heart, however, is Michael Douglas. He eventually mentors Lebouf and attempts to put his family back together. There are so many twists and turns in Gekko's actions - each seeming more implausible. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the film is its hopeful attitude about the future. The best scenes are the secret meetings where the bailouts were decided - a time when the fate of the economy rested on a handful of bankers. Capitalism is far from dead and we're in a time a reevaluating our economic polices in the midst of war and a growing uneasiness among the populace - and the film captures the current uneasiness. If the original film was a statement about 1980s greed, the sequel is about the consequences of that greed.