A good villain is hard to come by. Usually when one thinks of a good movie villain, one usually goes to Darth Vader, Freddie or Hannibal Lecter. But when a villain comes in a suit and tie, you know you have something special.
Wall Street's Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas) is perhaps one of the best movie villains of all time. There's no blood involved, but his ability to tear through anyone who stands in his way is equally as deadly. He's shrewd, he's slick and he's undeniably a perfect beast for his purpose.
Gecko returns in the Oliver Stone sequel "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps" -- kinda. The Gecko we get is a watered down version of the man whom we saw in the original film and by the end he's hardly recognizable.
Following an eight-year prison stay for securities fraud and insider trading, Gecko emerges alone. The man who once was surrounded by Wall Street's biggest and brightest, walks through the prison gates with only what he brought in, with no one waiting to pick him up.
Seven-years later he's written the book "Is Greed Good?" and is making the rounds to promote it. A young hotshot trader, Jake (Shia LeBeouf) goes to see him at a speaking engagement and his mesmerized. The only problem is Jake's girlfriend Winnie (Carey Mulligan) happens to be Gecko's daughter and wants nothing to do with the man.
Over the course of the next few months, Jake meets up with Gecko, slowly becoming enchanted by the older man and even tries and eventually succeeds in bringing father and daughter back together.
After the suicide of Jake's mentor Lou (Frank Langella), Jake sets in motion events that cause the man he deems responsible for Lou's death Bretton James (Josh Brolin) and his company to lose $120 million. Shortly after, James hires Jake, letting him know if he doesn't accept the job, he'll have a tough time being hired anywhere else.
During the course of the film, Jake learns Winnie has $100 million in an account in Switzerland her father left her before going to prison. Jake convinces her to give him the money to invest in a fusion research project he's had his hands on for a while. The only thing Jake must do is give the money to Gecko so he can legitimize the cash for investment.
In true Gecko fashion, the old man skips town with the money and starts a financial company in London. He begins to finally show the form that made him such a monster in the first film.
With that Winnie leaves Jake, but not before informing him she's pregnant. So Jake pays Gecko a visit with ultrasound of his unborn grandchild, but Gecko is unwilling to give up his throne of power.
In the end, Winnie and Jake are talking on her stoop when Gecko appears and informs them of an act of generosity. From there the flick ends in bubblegum sweetness.
I was on board as Gecko descends back into his devilish ways, but his transformation at the end is almost stomach turning. I want my bad guys to be bad with no redemption in sight.
Unfortunately Stone decided to take Gecko, keep him bad for most of the movie and then deliver us a half-villain who's one act is supposed to bring total deliverance from the evil acts he's done.
Douglas is wonderfully wicked again as Gecko and Mulligan is once again superb. LeBeouf does a nice job as Jake, but he always seems to be holding back. It would be nice to see him unleash everything he has onto a part and see what comes of it.
As far as extra goodies go, you'll find a commentary track from Stone and the nine-minute featurette "Gordon Gecko is back" and that's all. Slim pickens, kids, slim pickens.
Final Cut: "Money Never Sleeps" isn't as good as its predecessor, but not as bad as you might think. The biggest misstep with the film is trying to make Gecko a figure of redemption. Sticking with the original is your best bet.
3 out of 5 stars
Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps
Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia LeBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin, Frank Langella
Writer: Allan Loeb, Stephen Schiff
Director: Oliver Stone
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and thematic elements
Running Time: 2 hrs. 16 min.
Available now from Twentieth Century Fox