Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)
Directed by Oliver Stone
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec Running Time: 133 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French, Portuguese
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: December 21, 2010
Review Date: December 21, 2010
A soap opera whose events take place during a momentous period in the American landscape: sounds like an Oliver Stone film, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is certainly that. It’s a follow-up look at one of the central figures of Stone’s 1987 hit Wall Street – Gordon Gekko – and his involvement with a new set of characters years after he was sent to prison for fraud and insider trading. It’s not a very compelling film in terms of forging new paths of understanding about the way America does business now (the state of the economy, Wall Street, and the machinations behind the financial bailout are all old news). What’s more, the stories it’s telling (five major characters whose paths continually intersect) aren’t dramatically earthshaking either (in fact, most are very old school Hollywood in their good versus evil breakdowns), but it’s fun to see the oily, wily Gordon Gekko again, manipulating everyone in sight and building himself up again from nothing. His story isn’t the major focus of the film for much of the movie’s running time, but he’s unquestionably the most interesting character in sight.
Investment trader Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) is engaged to the estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan) of newly released, ruined Wall Street mogul Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), but his firm Keller Zabel is on the verge of bankruptcy, unable to get a bailout from other Wall Street firms who are being herded together by the billionaire head of Churchill Schwartz, Bretton James (Josh Brolin). When Keller Zabel goes under after the suicide of its head Louis Zabel (Frank Langella), Jake vows to ruin James any way he can. Gekko, meanwhile, is eager to put himself back in the game any way he can, but in order to do it, he needs an eager beaver like Jake who looks past his fiancé’s problems with her father in order to gain some maneuvers he can use to undermine James.
The screenplay by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff focuses on the give-and-take between the five major characters as they scheme and maneuver to one up each other using the 2008 economic crash as the backdrop. Break-ups and make-ups are too abrupt and aren’t sufficiently dramatized leaving the actors to bring interest to scenes which really aren’t always fully fleshed out. Being familiar with Gekko’s scheming and love of the hunt for power from the first film, one can see what’s happening with him very early on, so that aspect of the story which the director seems to think is going to be a big shock to his audience is actually very much an anticlimax. As compensation, Stone uses all manner of techniques to liven up the proceedings: some cutting edge graphics and split screens mixed in with ancient techniques like irises and fades which do add some visual interest but don’t really help the storytelling very much. But unlike the cautionary tale that the original film was intended to be, this new one seems a little tired and lacking in the electric zip that characterized the first one.
As in the original Wall Street, Michael Douglas is more a key supporting character than the lead (though he did win the Best Actor Oscar for the original movie). He’s once again the flashiest and most interesting schemer among the inhabitants in this investment snake pit, and even when his character becomes all Hollywood-mushy in the final scenes, it’s still a pleasure to watch him work. Next in terms of interest is Josh Brolin, excellent as the self-made billionaire who’s just cocky enough to enjoy his power and desperate enough to do anything to keep it. As the central couple, Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan seem almost like lightweights here. She’s burdened with the film’s most underdeveloped character, and she struggles somewhat with hiding her English accent, too. LaBeouf’s Jake has the proper fire, but something crucial seems missing,: a physically imposing posture that his male co-stars all possess. Frank Langella does another chameleon turn as the hopelessly out-of-touch investment banker blinking helplessly as his world collapses around him. Popping in for a few surprising scenes are stalwarts like Eli Wallach, Sylvia Miles, Susan Sarandon, and, reprising his original part, Charlie Sheen.
The widescreen film has been framed at 2.35:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Close-ups and medium shots display outstanding sharpness with lots of detail to offer in facial features and in the sets and costumes on display. Color is richly saturated and flesh tones are genuinely realistic. Long shots occasionally appear a little soft, and there is a bit of line twitter to be seen sometimes. Black levels don’t reach the depths of possibility, but they’re certainly more than acceptable. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix places Craig Armstrong’s music score generously around the soundstage making it the most prominently featured aspect of the sound design. There are some interesting uses of ambient sounds with helicopters and motorcycles panning across and through the available channels, but more could have been done with the ambient noises of New York City. Dialogue is well recorded and resides firmly in the center channel.
The audio commentary is provided by director Oliver Stone. He starts out enthusiastically discussing his reasons for filming and giving some background on the original movie, but he soon gets lower-voiced and almost sleepy in often describing too much what we’re seeing on-screen and its psychological implications for the characters.
Unless otherwise noted, the bonus features are presented in 1080p.
“A Conversation with Oliver Stone and the Cast” finds the director discussing the original movie and the sequel along with their own views on the economic status of America with Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, and Carey Mulligan (who talks the least of the participants). It runs 15 ¾ minutes.
“Money, Money, Money” is a five part series of featurettes detailing background on the original Wall Street experience. It runs 50 ½ minutes in all. The five featurettes are “Unfinished Business” (7 ½ minutes) which discusses the original film, “Gordon Gekko Is Back” (9 ¼ minutes) with Michael Douglas talking about his original character and his approach to playing him a second time, “Lifestyles of the Wall Street Rich and Infamous” (8 ½ minutes) offering backgrounds on 1980s lifestyles during the economic boom of that period, “A Tour of the Streets of Wall Street” (14 minutes) which is exactly what it sounds like: a tour of the real streets and buildings of the area, and “Trends, Schemes, and Collapse” (11 ¾ minutes) which details the bust of 2008.
There are fifteen deleted and extended scenes which can be viewed individually or in one 29 ½-minute grouping. Oliver Stone provides a commentary which can be turned on or off.
“Fox Movie Channel Presents In Character” offers interviews with the five principal actors of the piece, all in 480i. The actors who describe their roles and approaches to playing them are Michael Douglas (5 ½ minutes), Shia LaBeouf (4 ½ minutes), Carey Mulligan (5 minutes), Josh Brolin (6 minutes), and Frank Langella (5 ¼ minutes).
There are two trailers offered for the movie: the teaser trailer runs for 1 ½ minutes. The theatrical trailer is 2 ½ minutes. Both are in 1080p.
The disc is BD-Live ready, but the network was not operational during the review period.
There are 1080p trailers for Solitary Man, Unstoppable, and Love and Other Drugs.
The second disc in the set is a digital copy with enclosed instructions for installation on PC and Mac devices.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Not as much fun or as compelling dramatically as the original movie, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps nevertheless offers us another glimpse of the irrepressible Gordon Gekko, reason enough to give the film a rent if one enjoyed his original story. There are some interesting bonus features as well which focus a great deal on the first film which may fill in holes in viewers’ memories about it. The Blu-ray also offers very good video and audio.