Popular Culture

Bank Shot

Oliver Stone cashes out with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

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I don't know about you, but I like my Oliver Stone straight-up, with all the lunatic delusions writhing in my face. JFK, Ollie's 1991 fever dream about the Kennedy assassination, is the platinum standard here, I think. I haven't seen 2003's Comandante, his mash note to Fidel Castro ("one of the Earth's wisest people"), but then not many have—HBO, which commissioned the doc, quickly dumped it. And I passed on last year's South of the Border, Stone's salute to Hugo Chavez ("the man is intoxicating"), and contented myself with watching news footage of the two of them swanning around the Venice Film Festival together in matching red ties.

Given his penchant for demented rich-lefty political blather, you'd expect Stone to approach the subject of the 2008 stock-market meltdown with fangs bared. Oddly, though—possibly because of his pressing need for a box-office hit—he hasn't done a full Ollie this time out. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the sequel to his 1987 hit Wall Street, stops short of calling for the death of capitalism or a return to the comforting simplicity of a barter economy.

Regrettably, this uncharacteristic restraint deprives us of the sort of what-the-fuck entertainment value that Stone can be so adept at providing. The film attempts both to tell a standard Hollywood love story and to stuff in all the details of the subprime mortgage mess around the edges. It's a pity the story flatlines, and in the end the details—too tangled for any movie to contain—bury the picture.

Michael Douglas, being irreplaceable, is back as Gordon Gekko. You'll recall that in the 1987 film, the Gekko character, with his slicked-back hair and strapping suspenders, provided not just the sartorial template for a real-world generation of Wall Street weasels, but also a brazen battle cry: "Greed is good." (Adam Smith may still be weeping.) Now at large once again after doing eight years in prison on an insider-trading conviction, Gekko sniffs a new strain of financial malfeasance in the air. Biding his time till he can figure out a way to profit from it, he has published a book, called Is Greed Good? The titular question is of course rhetorical.

Gekko longs to reconcile with his estranged daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), who runs an investigative news website presumably dedicated to taking down wheeler-dealers like her dad. And yet Winnie herself is romantically entwined with a young Wall Street investment wiz named Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf). But Jake's okay—he's an anti-weasel, a specialist in funding virtuous new forms of alternative energy. Jake's beloved mentor is his aging boss, Lou Zabel (Frank Langella), who's presented as the last moral man on Wall Street (and possibly the most clueless: He says things like, "How do you make money on losses?"). When Lou's venerable firm is sacked by a hedge-fund snake named Bretton (Josh Brolin), Jake vows revenge. Fortunately, the wily Gekko is on hand to help out. (Sure.)

As the story marches resolutely toward the puddle of emotional mush into which it topples at the end, Stone has Gekko shovel in endless fiscal explication. There's the requisite stuff about bundled debt and evil bankers, but any film on this subject that presumes to explain the concept of moral hazard without even whispering the words "Fannie Mae" or "Freddie Mac" clearly has an agenda other than enlightenment. Cluttering things further are Stone's usual visual eccentricities, among them some alarmingly perky animated graphics (explaining fusion technology!). For bad measure, there's also a procession of celebrity cameos by Charlie Sheen (nudge, nudge), wing-haired Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, and, most distractingly, the director himself. Douglas, LaBeouf ,and the heartily hissable Brolin give solid performances, and so does Susan Sarandon, in a few brief scenes as Jake's real-estate-flipping mom. But Langella is marooned in mopery, and the radiant Mulligan, so impressive in An Education and Never Let Me Go, is trapped in tedious weepery.

For those unintrigued by any of this, there's an inviting alternative. For less than the price of two tickets to this movie you could pick up a copy of The Big Short, Michael Lewis' excellent book about the Great Crash of '08, which is both grippingly written and deeply informative. The clincher: It's entirely Ollie-free.  

Kurt Loder is a writer, among other things, embedded in New York.

NEXT: Live Forever, Or Die Trying

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  1. The original was also somewhat evenhanded. For example, the stockholders’ meeting in which Gekko excoriates all of the vice-presidents each earning $200,000.00 plus comes to mind. In fact, it is in that scent that the great line was delivered.

    1. Stone wasn’t even-handed, he just happens to be a talented director and writer who was still young and smart enough to realize that the story still needs to be good and entertaining. He is now significantly more batshit crazy than he was back then (and that’s saying something), and it affects his work.

      1. A formerly talented writer and director.

  2. Is… is that Shia LaBeouf?!!

  3. Oh, for the record, Oliver Stone doesn’t make documentaries about other subjects, he makes documentaries about Oliver Stone.

    If you ever watch one of his documentaries, you’ll know what I mean.

    1. True, but I am eager to see if Stone is as evenhanded as he was with the original.

  4. Watching Wall Street, writing a critique of the movie and making a presentation to the class was a mandatory assignment in my b-school’s ethics class.

  5. But Jake’s okay?he’s an anti-weasel, a specialist in funding virtuous new forms of alternative energy.

    You’re fucking kidding me. The only way the story could have been more cloying is if Jake were only interested in start-up companies specializing in electric cars.

    1. What?!? How can he wear a suit and be virtuous without being a politician?

      1. He is virtuous because he is funding alternative energy. Don’t you understand!? He isn’t raping Mother Earth.

        He is making sweet consentual sex with her. He is romancing her. Taking his time. All gentle like.

  6. I saw those worms LaBeouf and Sarandon on one of the lefty cable-news networks last night, ostensibly there to promote their film but working in hackneyed jabs at Republicanism, capitalism and the profit motive. I assume they flew off somewhere in private-jet luxury to their next destination.

  7. I hope Kurt Loder lives long enough to take Abe Vigoda’s place as the “He’s still alive? WTF?” guy.

    I assume they flew off somewhere in private-jet luxury to their next destination.

    It’s the People’s private-jet luxury, and celebrities are our due representatives in it.

    You sound antisocial.

    1. Oskar, a meek 12-year-old boy, lives with his mother, Yvonne, in the western Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg in 1982.

      His classmates regularly bully him, and he spends his evenings imagining revenge.

      One night, he meets Kurt Loder, who has the physical appearance of a pale girl his own age. Kurt Loder has recently moved in next door to Oskar with an older man named H?kan.

      Kurt Loder initially informs Oskar that they cannot be friends. However, over time, they begin to form a close relationship, with Oskar lending his Rubik’s Cube to Kurt Loder, and the two exchanging Morse code messages through their apartment wall.

      Kurt Loder discovers that Oskar’s schoolmates have bullied him after questioning him about a cut on his cheek, and encourages him to stand up for himself.

      This inspires Oskar to finally stand up to his tormentors during a field trip and to strike the leader of the bullies, Conny, on the side of the head with a pole, damaging his ear.

      Meanwhile, H?kan has killed a local resident to provide blood for Kurt Loder. When he fails to return with the blood, Kurt Loder finds and kills a local resident named Jocke.

      H?kan attempts to hide his body in a lake, but Oskar’s fellow-students discover it during a field trip. When his last attempt to secure blood fails, and he is about to be caught, H?kan purposely disfigures himself by pouring acid on his face, preventing the authorities from identifying him and tracing Kurt Loder.

      Kurt Loder finds out where H?kan is being held at the local hospital. H?kan lets Kurt Loder in the window and offers his neck for Kurt Loder to feed on. Afterwards, he falls out the window to his death. Now alone, Kurt Loder goes to Oskar’s apartment and spends the night with him, during which time they agree to “go steady”.

      Some time later, Oskar shows Kurt Loder a private place he knows. Unaware that Kurt Loder is a vampire, Oskar suggests that they form a blood bond, and cuts his hand, asking Kurt Loder to do the same.

      Kurt Loder, thirsting for blood but not wanting to harm Oskar, laps up his spilt blood before running away.

      1. WTF?

  8. I was talking to my masters student about this movie a few months ago and she confessed to having never scene the original. I was a little shocked …

    1. You really need to. I did about eight months ago and…it’s special. Some great moments (like the shareholder scene mentioned above), and some reTARDED attempts to explain how Wall Street bidness gets done, capped by one of the single-worst “what have I become??” scenery-chewings in cinematic history. It’s difficult to be so good and so bad in one movie, and a lot of the stuff has echoes in culture that came after.

      1. Oh don’t worry, she was duly harangued for having the temerity not to have seen a Charlie Sheen movie that I wanted to talk about. 😉 Hell, his character’s name alone is worth the price of admission.

      2. Hold on, are you talking about the sequel? If so, I’m glad to hear that I’ll be enjoying some quality ridiculous cheese soon.

      3. I rewatched it recently as well, and while there are some retarded parts, Stone clearly knows how to write. Any writer is capable of completely screwing up descriptions of things they don’t know about (or choose to purposely misunderstand), and don’t bother to research properly.

        For instance, there are great writers whose descriptions of how computers work are dumber than Ben Affleck, yet their stories are still entertaining.

        1. Uh…I also have to ask if you were referring to the original or the remake; because I was referring to the original like db was.

    2. You really need to. I did about eight months ago and…it’s special. Some great moments (like the shareholder scene mentioned above), and some reTARDED attempts to explain how Wall Street bidness gets done, capped by one of the single-worst “what have I become??” scenery-chewings in cinematic history. It’s difficult to be so good and so bad in one movie, and a lot of the stuff has echoes in culture that came after.

      1. Sorry, but any movie that has to be described as “… it’s special”, and “reTARDED” is unlikely to make it onto the short list of leftist Hollywood drivel I will sit through.

  9. Motherfucker should have quit after writing the screenplays for Midnight Express and Conan the Barbarian. Two gems.

    The biggest problem with Stone is his deception when it comes to historical accuracy. Billy Mills (Midnight Express), the former members of the Doors, anyone who’s ever played pro football (Any Given Sunday) and everyone involved in the JFK (JFK) investigation have ripped him for his intentional distortion of history.

    1. WTF?

      You mean to tell me that for the last 80 years, films made of real people have always been scrupulously accurate? You mean The Doors is not exacly the way it happened. And Lawrence of Arabia never stretched a fact?

      You can accuse Stone of many things, but if you want to indict him on historical inaccuracy, he’ll have to stand behind D.W. Griffith and on.

    2. If there was ever a theme song that attached to your skull and didn’t let go, it’s Chase from Midnight Express. If you read the wikipedia entry for that movie you would have to conclude someone working for the Turkish government wrote it as about two thirds of it is devoted to the movies anti-Turkey bashing, and the fact Mills prison sex was strictly voluntary (how boring is that?) is only mentioned in passing.

    3. Billy Hayes, not Mills, but yes, great movie. Too bad Oliver made up a lot of things compared to what actually happened.

  10. “Now at large once again after doing eight years in prison…”

    They had investigative news websites in 1995? Because if Gekko did 8 years from 1987, wouldn’t that set the picture 15 years ago?

    1. Hi, Dello. The film’s chronology is a little bumpy. After spending five years in court, Gekko was sent to jail in 1993. He was released in 2001. The story really gets underway “seven years later.” — KL

      1. When did you obtain that aol account? Only matters ’cause that turned into being pretty pimp* again a few months ago. Anytime before that . . .

        * ‘pimp’ turned pimp again for a fifteen minute time period between 10:45 and 11:00 EST, for seven years and eleven months before that, and an eternity afterward, it stayed lame.

  11. I was bangin’ the caboose out of a stock picking algorithm back in October of ’87. Oops! LOL

    Jess
    http://www.anon-yes-please.com

  12. Kurt Loder, America’s second oldest teenager.

    1. And a fine writer. That’s a very entertaining review.

  13. Kurt Loder:

    A weird old guy who hangs around with your crew for a while before suddenly revealing that he’s actually cooler than all of you.

    “I’m so sick of this town. What should we do tonight?”

    “Well, we could go back to my loft, do some blow and listen chronologically to every punk single released in 1977 and 1978. I’ve got them all on vinyl.”

    1. “Well, we could go back to my loft, do some blow and listen chronologically to every punk single released in 1977 and 1978. I’ve got them all on vinyl.”

      I thought that was the Jacket’s pickup line.

      1. Every punk record from 1977 to 1978? How many stories up are we you say? Do you think its true you see your life flashing before your eyes before you die, including the three excruciating hours of torment from listening to the worst music ever put to vinyl you endured before throwing yourself out the window?

        1. He’s still cooler than you.
          And he only sucked dick to survive in jail!
          TO SURVIVE!

  14. He says things like, “How do you make money on losses?

    Holy. Fucking. Shit. If anyone – and I mean anyone – above the level of mail room clerk who had worked in the securities industry for more than a few months uttered that, they would be rightfully mocked as a complete moron. That Stone has the president of a financial company say it only shows how clueless he is. I can’t watch the movie now, because that moment would jar me out of suspension of disbelief.

    Let me try to give some parallel for those who don’t know finance: if a chemist asked “what’s an ester?” if a lawyer asked “what do they have to disclose in discovery?” or if a computer programmer (depending on the language used) asked “what’s inheritance?”, you would view them as being stupid as that the person who asked the question above.

    1. Opportunity cost? Could you run that by me one more time, I’m not getting it.

  15. Massive alt-text failure by Kurt Loder.

    The only two Stone films I find remotely palatable are Platoon and Natural Born Killers.

  16. Little known fact:

    Shia LaBeouf means “Shia the beef”.

    1. Lesser known fact:

      “capitol l” means “L” which stands for “LaBeouf” Which means “the beef”.

      Therefore capitol l shall, from this time forward be called “the beef”

  17. Platoon: US Army murders Jesus.
    Natural Born Killers: Violence Porn.

  18. Kurt Loder? What else has he done post-MTV?

    1. Film reviews at reason.com. What could be worse?

      1. Commenting on the reviews at H&R?

  19. No fuckin’ way… Kurt Loder? Dude, I’m totally flashin’ back to the 90’s. I’m gonna go listen to Nirvana and watch Singled-Out with Jenny McCarthy. At least that’s how I remember him.

    1. Good for him. Reason.com is something at least we all care enough to post at. Welcome, Mr. Loder.

  20. Wall Street was okay, but I always thought Working Girl with Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver actually captured the feel of an investment bank better.

  21. Where in the sequence of media personalities that broke the Cobain suicide story is Loder? 1st, 2nd, 200th?

    1. OH MY GOD! Kurt Loder killed Kurt Cobain. We’re through the looking-glass, people!

      1. Back, and to the left.

        Back, and to the left.

        Back, and to the left.

        1. That is ONE magic syringe.

  22. Judging from the trailors, it looks like an honest to goodness quotefest, so it will be on my Netflix que shortly.

    Only disappointing aspect is this subplot where Leboef says, ‘Gordon, I’m going to marry your daughter.’ Goddamn, who wants to see some romantic lalaloo bullshit in a sequel to Wall Street. Learn from Godfather III, Hollywood. LEARN!.

    1. An ‘o’ in trailer. Sheesh.

  23. I remember Creem Magazine referring to this guy as Kurt “Rear” Loder. Still funny.

  24. Kurt Loder is still alive??

  25. Greed is fkin’ good. As I stare at my copy of The Virtue of Selfishness.

  26. Kurt Loder is the shit and the only likeable person on MTV, post 80’s.

    1. Kennedy has a pretty good radio show.

      1. Just checked out her blog. Wish she’d write more, her two articles were great.

    2. agreed!

  27. MTV made me hate my life.

  28. Kurt Loder: yet more proof that all awesome people come from New Jersey.

  29. *grovels before the awesomeness that is the anon-bot*

    1. It’s a spoofer.

  30. I can’t wait see the Altas Shrugged Movie!

    1. Is Kurt Loder in it?

  31. comments don’t matter now. too late,

  32. Meh. I’m holding out for Wall Street: Rust Never Sleeps, where Neil Young takes back The Street from the Money-Changers with green-powered guitar feedback. Drops 12/12/12.

  33. Not at all meaning to be snarky

    But I truly thought Kurt Loder had passed away a few years ago.

    Good to hear him hearty and hale and walking among us still.

  34. Kurt Loder? Awesome! Best part of MTV in the 90s.

  35. Huh huh, Kurt Scroder

  36. That’s funny, Kurt: I read “The Big Short” and while there’s a fantastic explanation of credit default swaps and other SIV’s, there’s absolutely nothing about Franklin Raines, Fannie and Freddie, et al there, either. IMO it complicates the evil Wall Street narrative to explain the fertile ground (The CRA) that enabled the whole thing in the first place.

    1. Hey, Man. You’re right. Nobody seems to want much to talk about Fan and Fred, do they? The great value of Lewis’ book, I think, is the way in which he sought out crucial characters and made them conduits for a lot of technical information, presented with remarkable clarity. It can be argued that going back 33 years to rope in the CRA would have unbalanced Lewis’ story. It’d be nice if someone as skilful as he would take on that tale — sooner rather than later, one would hope.

  37. That’s undeniable, i.e., from Liar’s Poker to Moneyball to The Big Short, the man knows how to bring these “cruical characters” to life. On an unrelated point, I was impressed that Stone retains enough of a tether to reality to have Gekko characterize the kid’s green ideas as “the next bubble”…usually even an implied offense to the (what is it called this year, hmm let’s see…oh yeah:) “global climate disruption” crowd is verboten in Hollywood.

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