Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Director: Oliver Stone Stars: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan ** Oliver Stone is a director who tackles subjects until he bludgeons the audience into boredom with a message - and so, when it's a sequel or part of a series of themed movies, it usually pays to lower expectations. Take the favourite subject of his early directorial career, Vietnam. It started off with the brilliant Platoon, and then Born on the Fourth of July had its moments before Stone went overboard with the humdrum Heaven & Earth. Likewise, his series on American presidents is uneven: out of the films JFK, Nixon and W, it's only JFK that really works. His schtick that the presidents of the United States are usually flawed, good guys undone by the size of the job is oft repeated.
Some of his movies were simply disasters: World Trade Centre, Any Given Sunday> and U Turn - but when the director tantalises his audience with just enough material on a subject, his work has a tendency to linger in the memory, and his status as one of the great directors working today remains secure. The bewitching Salvador, about the 1980 dictatorship in El Salvador; Talk Radio, about a radio host who riles listeners; and his adaptation of the Quentin Tarantino script Natural Born Killers are stand-outs.
In recent years, Stone has also flourished as a documentary filmmaker, with fascinating works on Latin political leaders, Comandate>, about Castro; and South of the Border, which takes a political journey through South America. But Wall Street remains one of his most famous works. The 23-year-old film tells the story of a corporate financier whose unscrupulous love of money and capitalism see him wind up in jail.
The moral capitalist, played by Charlie Sheen, was supposed to be the film's hero - the message being that the unfettered pursuit of money and power corrupts. And now it seems with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the main reason to bring back Gordon Gekko is to rehash the themes of the original, but this time leave the audience with no option but to accept the main player as a fool rather than someone to be admired.
This is a Frank Capra spin on the tale, as Gekko emerges from prison, is spurned by his daughter (Carey Mulligan), but admired by her fiancé, who dreams of banking riches (Shia LaBeouf). Just as the first movie, the apprentice learns from watching the manipulative master that it doesn't pay to be a crook, but unlike the first film, Stone erases any shades of ambiguity in favour of moral certainty. The best scenes, then, are those away from this central plot, in which a group of bank heads are shown discussing the economic crisis like gangsters around a table. It's clever to posit these "banksters" as the new cosa nostra - certainly not a stretch in these economic times - but as with most Stone projects, the message he delivers is a heavy-handed one.
* Kaleem Aftab