Yet even the most desperate advertising copywriter wouldn”t adorn a movie ad with the quote “Informative and Reasonable!” in 72-point type. And if Oliver Stone won”t indulge in malicious speculation about Wall Street, to whom can we turn?
The new Wall Street features numerous inside jokes, such as a cameo by Charlie Sheen as Bud Fox from the original. The funniest, though, is overlooked in the credits: The screenplay is by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff. That’s like a movie about heavy industry being written by Adam Carnegie and Stuart Rockefeller. In 1867, Solomon Loeb co-founded the genteel investment bank Kuhn, Loeb & Co., which he passed on to his son-in-law Jacob Schiff, who became the early 20th Century’s German-Jewish J.P. Morgan.
Loeb and Schiff’s script is overstuffed with plot, exposition, and commentary. Stone compounds this by letting everybody except poor Shia LaBeouf, the nice-guy nullity at the center, overact. The youngest and oldest performers are particularly shameless. As Gekko’s estranged daughter, Carey Mulligan (Oscar-nominated last year for An Education) shows off facial-muscle agility that would intimidate Jim Carrey. After a while, I stopped listening to her lines and tried mimicking her expressions in the dark. (I couldn”t.) Eli Wallach, age 94, has a blast stealing scenes as the only man on Wall Street old enough to remember the first Black October. He gleefully informs the Treasury Secretary: “It’s 1929 all over again; it’s the end of the world!”
Money Never Sleeps continues Stone’s practice of middlebrow free association, as if he were perusing Wikipedia on acid. Just as Gordon “Greed Is Good” Gekko’s name is a mashup of the lizard and Gordon Getty, once the richest man on the Forbes 400, Josh Brolin’s handsome villain is called “Bretton James,” an apparent concoction of Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and 1944’s Bretton Woods trade conference. Similarly, Stone casts Austin Pendleton in a supporting role as the inventor of green nuclear fusion energy because he’s a dead ringer for the late television astrophysicist Carl Sagan, so you can tell right away that he’s smart about the science stuff.
These subliminal shortcuts help Stone rush us through a huge amount of material in 135 minutes without the wheels ever coming off, but an older and wiser Stone isn”t a better one.
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