One of the biggest surprises of the Spring was 20th Century Fox’s decision to move Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” from its long held April release date to September. This put the intriguing sequel to the iconic ’80s drama smack dab at the beginning of awards season and primed for all sorts of Oscar talk whether it was deserved or not. Things got more curious when the studio and Stone decided to bring the film to this year’s Cannes Film Festival a full four months before its worldwide release. Traditionally, that’s the sort of move you make when you’re extremely confident about your film’s critical prospects or reviews will have little impact on your box office (“The Da Vinci Code” immediately comes to mind in that category). So, what’s the verdict? Mixed, but entertained, at least for now.
Critics from both sides of the Atlantic have weighed in after this morning’s press screening and the one consistent theme is that the picture is entertaining and slick (Stone in “studio mode” came up numerous times) and that Michael Douglas steals the show. In fact, a few critics went to so far to wonder if Douglas could win another Oscar for playing the same character over 20 years later (he won Best Actor in 1988 for the same role in “Wall Street”). At this point, it’s clear he’ll be in the hunt for a nomination, but let’s not get presumptuous with a win (not that anyone went that far in their speculation). There also seemed to be a consensus of high praise for stars Josh Brolin and Frank Langella, ambivalence toward Shia LaBeouf’s role and disappointment Carey Mulligan didn’t have much to do.
For more thoughts on the film, let’s check out a sampling of the reviews so far.
Owen Gliberman is fan remarking, “it”s a darkly exciting steel-and-glass vision of piranhas in the water, of ruthlessly wealthy, nattily dressed men doing whatever it takes to make themselves wealthier.” And that Stone, “conjures that same breathless atmosphere of dramatic liquidity, of a plot that hurtles along at the speed of information.”
The always smart and full of perspective Anthony Breznican calls the drama “electrifying” and notes “it shows the consequences of surrendering to that soothing voice that says. Take it. It’s yours. Somebody else will.”
Justin Chang isn’t over the moon about the sequel, but as you’d expect for a trade paper he seems to understand its charms. He describes Douglas as the best thing about the film, “Older, grayer and perhaps a touch less snakelike, Douglas is still insinuatingly good, and his performance lays the groundwork for the film’s one spectacularly cynical twist — one that proves too much for the film’s crowd-pleasing instincts to bear.”
Thompson on Hollywood
Industry and awards pundit Anne Thompson felt the film had numerous faults, calling the return of Gekko “problematic” to the main storyline and that the “movie pops in and out of satirizing and referencing itself and trying to create an authentic drama.” Still she adds, “it moves along entertainingly, even if the resolution seems Hollywood pat.”
Former Variety critic Todd McCarthy, who recently set up his own blog with Indiewire, is one of the film’s biggest detractors noting, “In the end, the picture has little new or insightful to say about business and investment tomfoolery, much less about the future, beyond what is contained in the characters” innumerable platitudes.”
As for some overseas opinion, London’s David Gritten says the film’s emotional relationships feel “awkward and forced.” More importantly, he notes, “We keep coming back to Gekko”s question: Is greed good? Here, Stone tries to have it both ways. I lost count of the times a character says: “It”s not about the money,” but visually the film suggests otherwise: it”s stuffed with long tracking scenes and aerial shots showing Manhattan, and especially the temples of Mammon on Wall Street itself, in a flattering, golden-hued glow. We see them at sunrise, at dusk, and it”s clear we are meant to feel awe.”
Mark Adams of the influential global trade paper likes Douglas’ performance, but as for the picture he feels it “lacks a real sense of dramatic urgency, but one can”t deny its polish and poise.”
“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” opens nationwide on Sept. 24.
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