REVIEW: ‘Wall Street 2′ crashes in theaters

Apparently Oliver Stone has gotten too big to read his own scripts.

In his new “Wall Street,” a delayed pseudo-sequel to the 1987 film of the same name, Stone’s direction is a near-constant series of mistakes. At the break of every new day there is a clichéd montage of life in New York City. Whenever a stock is rising or crashing a ticker of incomprehensible numbers flies across the screen. And most obnoxious is the silly science diagram accompanying every mention of nuclear fission – why is nuclear fission even in this movie?

Even more problematic is the story itself, which suffers from a complete lack of direction. If there’s one thread holding the storyline together, it’s the reconciliation of Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan) and her father Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Winnie is the fiancée of young financial banker Jake (Shia LaBeouf), so Jake contacts Wall Street legend Gordon to restore his fractured relationship with his daughter. Stone was onto something here – the only scene truly shared between Mulligan and Douglas was touching – until Swiss bank accounts, real estate and babies get involved and muck up what was the emotional center of the story.

Storylines are repeatedly left for dead while new, less engaging ones emerge. The villain Bretton James (Josh Brolin) – who is marginally responsible for both Jake’s mentor’s death and Gordon Gekko’s time in prison – barely sees a minute of screen time in the last half-hour. His story ends abruptly when, while lying awake at 4 a.m., Jake decides to pen a piece of investigative journalism so damning that Bretton is arrested the next day. The beauty of a liberal arts education: many of our best financial bankers are also Pulitzer Prize-winning editorialists.

The political controversy surrounding bank bailouts and financial corruption is force-fed into the story late in the film. Several scenes set at the Federal Reserve that are completely inconsequential to the plot, wordy and, quite frankly, have nothing new or interesting to say about the 2008 financial crisis.

If there’s one redeeming quality here, it’s the superstar cast managing to shine in spite of the film’s unsuccessful efforts. Michael Douglas is just despicable enough to break our hearts while still retaining enough humanity to make us care about Gordon. Josh Brolin is utterly vile as an exorbitantly wealthy super-capitalist. At times Mulligan’s quite convincing too, although it’d have been nice if she wasn’t victimized and crying in every scene.

What makes “Wall Street 2” so frustrating is the fact that there seemed to be a few good movies within these performances. But instead of developing any one thing, Stone tries to take on three or four separate stories, making a mess of all of them. I’m no economist, but I think Jake and Gordon would probably chalk this failure up to the law of diminishing utility.