This review contains major spoilers, so please do not read it until after you have seen the film. If you have not seen the film, put it on your must see list. Yes, Shia and Carey are dull as dishwater on screen, but Michael Douglas deserves a best supporting actor Oscar for his brilliant, warm, witty and charming performance. See it before reading the rest of this review.
I enjoyed the movie while watching it, but felt a slight let down with the apparent Hollywood ending. I agreed with the reviewers who saw Michael Douglas’ character as being too reformed and too soft. However, thinking about it more, I realize that Stone was delivering an even sharper critique of capitalism than he did in the first film.
Think about what Gordon Gecko did. He pretended to be reformed and pretended to be poor. He showed humility and claimed to have learned from his prison experience. He fools everyone. Now realize that he has 100 million dollars that he stolen in a Swiss Bank Account in the name of his daughter. The problem is that she hates him and blames him for her brother’s drug death. The only way to get the money is to establish a relationship with his daughter again. He uses her boyfriend, Shia Labeouf, to re-establish his relationship with her. He uses both of them to get the money out of the Swiss account and he promptly steals it from them. He does this while the audience believes him to be a truly reformed and repentant man.
He quickly makes a killing when the housing bubble bursts. While millions are losing their life savings in the greatest stock market crash since 1929. He turns the 100 million into a billion, a neat profit.
He then invests in green energy, “the next bubble” as he calls it. It is not because he believes in it, but he believes it is the next money making thing. He invests in his daughter’s leftist website because he sees how useful it has been in bringing down his Wall Street enemies.
He is left at the end with more power, more control and more money than ever before. He is free and on top of the world. All of it due to the money he stole. The opposition from his idealist daughter and son-in-law is gone. They are now in his control and debt.
This is a much more realistic and cynical movie than the original “Wall Street.” In that movie, the Wall Street crooks end up broke, disgraced and in jail. In this movie, the Wall Street crooks end up rich, powerful and live happily ever after. Yes, Josh Brolin does not fare so well. But that is only because he is stupid and arrogant and “double dips” using his own personal account to make even more money. He betrays his Wall Street friends and mentors who have helped him. He turns them over to the police. Be smart and play by the rules of Wall Street and you end up on top, don’t play by the rules, betray your Wall Street buddies to the cops, you can end up in jail.
There is one image that Stone keeps going back to – bubbles rising into the sky. It is a precise and brilliant metaphor. We know that one day the bubble will burst, even if we do not see it happening on screen.
Has Oliver Stone gone soft? No he has grown more cynical.