Gordon Gekko is back, but he's not as powerful a force as he once was.
"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" is a sequel that, not surprisingly, is weaker than its predecessor from 1987. Of course, times have changed, and not necessarily for the better. A man whose every waking moment is consumed with pondering wealth doesn't shock us as much, not since a recession and after headlines have blared the brazen greed of companies such as Enron and scammers the likes of Bernie Madoff.
Gekko was a villain's villain in the original "Wall Street," with his polished good looks and abounding confidence. Michael Douglas was memorable in a role that has become so iconic it should have been left alone and not cheapened by a sequel.
Part of the problem is this show doesn't really focus on Gekko, although he most certainly is involved. The star here is Shia LaBeouf as Jake Moore, a stockbroker who is engaged to Gekko's daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan, "An Education"). Jake decides he wants to meet Winnie's estranged father, so he attends a lecture that is a platform from which Gekko touts his new book.
Jake's company is in financial straits, which become more pronounced upon the death of its leader and Jake's mentor, Louis (Frank Langella). Jake blames the institution's downfall on competitor Bretton James (Josh Brolin). Gekko conveniently is on hand to assist Jake, but he wants something from Jake, too: the chance to talk to Winnie again.
Meanwhile, Jake's mother (Susan Sarandon) wants something from her son as well: a loan.
The liveliest part of the movie lasts only a few moments, when a character we met in the original film has a brief conversation with Gekko. In this scene, Douglas resembles his father more than ever, as does the actor portraying the other character. It's fascinating to see the second generation of these famous faces.
Also, it's interesting to see, from a fictional standpoint, what may have happened behind the scenes before and after the bailout. The script is the strongest during these scenes.
The show is overly long at more than two hours' running time. Its finale is standard Hollywood fare that I couldn't buy for a moment. There's an indicator that another sequel is possible, but I hope that isn't the case.
I don't want the power of one of my favorite villains diminished any further.