“Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps,” by Oliver Stone, 2010
If you were expecting a sequel to the original film, 1987’s “Wall Street,” you’ll be disappointed. Yes, mentions are made of credit default swaps, derivatives, the real-estate bubble, short-selling, self-dealing, ‘too-big-to-fail’ and ‘moral hazard’ – but only briefly, and only to give the film an air of reality. Yes, a firm paralleling Goldman Sachs is the villain of the story, and a firm that looks like Lehman Brothers is the ‘tragic’ heroes of insolvency. But what this story really is, is the story of a sad daughter who hates Daddy Gekko. And the potential son-in-law who tries to bring them together. Gag.
The film is littered with unrealities. The daughter is a leftie blogger who takes up with a guy who works as an investment banker on Wall Street. Right. The rat-like investment banker seems to be only stuck on one investment and one product – fusion energy. Yet he’s considered some kind of investing genius since he was 12-years old. OK. Somehow grey-haired but charming Gordon figures out a way to get his potential son-in-law to wire him a $100,000,000. Right. Gekko spends 8 years in jail, instead of the actual 2 years that Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky really spent in jail. Right. The latter was the one who really said that ‘greed is healthy.’ Gordon Gekko gives speeches that sound more like Paul Krugman than Milken or Boesky. (Voicing Stone, no doubt.) The potential son-in-law gives up a lucrative job with Goldman’s stand-in because he thinks the head of the company is a nasty brute. Right. The head of the ersatz Lehman Brothers nobly commits suicide after the company goes belly-up. Right. It never happened. At the end, the leftie blogger, potential son-in-law and Gordon all agree to back the scientific oddity of fusion power, which brings this happy trio together. Right.
Michael Douglas plays Gekko in all the creepy vanity that Douglas can conjure. And yet ends up trying to be the good Dad by giving $100M to ‘fusion’ energy, which Gekko calls part of “the next bubble, right?” (The green bubble…) All just because he sees an ultrasound of his daughter’s baby. Gag.
The film does show the ridiculous amounts of money that investment bankers earn for their ‘pitches’ and hunches. Son-In-Law is given a 1.4M bonus by ersatz Lehman. They drink expensive champagne and party with models/hookers/gold-diggers. They buy expensive rings. They buy expensive cars and motorcycles. They live in expensive apartments and houses. They go to expensive fund-raisers and hob-nob with the rest of the ruling class. This should not be news to anyone except the intentionally dense.
The best scenes are the ones where an ersatz Hank Paulson summons the “Rockerfellerian” rulers of Wall Street to a long-table meeting in some ancient oak-paneled club hall. The ambiance of 'robber baron' hovers over it like a bad smell. Here the bankers and the government decide to save the banking system with a bail-out, and yet let Lehman go under. Truly a small peek at who rules America. The bigger the criminal, the more access they have to the government. And there is no real vote, except at this table. The rest is just details.
Skip this film unless you are a glutton for trivia.
11/22/2010, the day the CIA and FBI killed John Kennedy.