Before that, Gekko (Michael Douglas) is merely a broken stock trader excon, penniless with nothing but pearls of wisdom to pay his way through his Golden Years. While certainly a presence, he is not in the “Wall Street” sequel that much, weaving in and out, waving his long gray locks and spouting the Oliver Stone film’s best lines (to a rival, “You stop telling lies about me, and I’ll stop telling the truth about you”). He even gives a penitent version of the infamous “Greed is good” speech from the first film. Now, Gekko is saying, “Greed is not good.”
Not good, dramatically. Where Stone was once a soothsayer, in “Sleeps” he’s giving us a crash course on all those sub-prime, hedge-fund, derivative evils that have been peppering the press since 2008.
The problem is…it’s boring. The Devil has had is hooves clipped and we are left with two baby-faced innocents, upstart trader Jake Moore (Shia La Beouf) and environmentalist Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan), to ignite the action. Devoid of sexual chemistry, lovers Jake and Winnie are incorruptible do-gooders, regardless of Miss Gekko being Gordon’s daughter.
The big heavy here is investment banker Bretton James (Josh Brolin), who railroads kindly old broker Louis Zabel (Frank Langella) to a suicidedeath by-subway. James apparently had a hand in Gordon’s prior financial collapse and lengthy prison sentence, although Brolin wasn’t in the original “Wall Street.” The anti-corruption destruction there was done by a one Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), seen in “Sleeps” in a brief, but potent moment.
If James did do in Gekko, why does that make him bad? Stone seems to have lost his moral compass. Desperate to find fault with someone, he has Gordon get greedy again, chiseling his now pregnant daughter out of her trust fund.
This seems a little low, even for the embodiment of ‘80’s economic evil. What’s amazing is that in the age of Bernard Madoff, Stone couldn’t come up with villainy in touch with the times.