This is the perfect time for a sequel to Wall Street. Surely the people who made “Greed is good” the catchphrase for an era would have a lot to say about the global financial meltdown of 2008. You know Oliver Stone likes nothing better than “explaining” (critics always use a harsher verb) history to the audience. He’s taken on Vietnam (Platoon and Born on the 4th of July), Watergate (Nixon), the JFK assassination (JFK), and most recently the Bush years (W). These movies may have all the subtlety of a pistol against your skull but you can’t say that Stone shies away from the issues.
Why, then, does he tiptoe around the causes of the financial meltdown? Aww, are we afwaid to impwicate the audience? Or does he think that the viewers are stupid and he has to dumb down the discussion? Granted, the reasons for the meltdown are vast and convoluted, but there is little attempt to address them. Instead we get sermons about greed and why it is bad. And you discovered this when?
In Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, this is why the markets crashed:
Because Josh Brolin is evil.
This is the first Oliver Stone movie that didn’t give me a headache—because I was too busy laughing at the dialogue. It is pure cheese, stuffed with enough cliches and platitudes to make a traditional politician barf. To deliver the cheese, Stone hired some fine actors and turned them into ham. Michael Douglas won an Oscar for playing Gordon Gekko in the first movie; his performance in Wall Street 2 has to be one of the worst in his career. And Josh Brolin whom we loved in The Goonies and No Country For Old Men: awful.
Eli Wallach: terrible, but he’s forgiven because he’s Eli Wallach. Susan Sarandon: overacting. The actors playing the Chinese investors would not be out of place as taho vendor-stereotypes in a 1960s Tagalog movie. (People, have you spoken to a Chinese investment banker recently? Listen carefully. You work for them now.) The actor who looks like US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner: good casting.
Shia LaBeouf and Cary Mulligan: You’re young, you’ll survive this crash. The only actor who survives with his dignity intact is Frank Langella. Because no one makes a fool of Langella.
The songs in Wall Street 2 are by David Byrne and Brian Eno. Usually this is a good thing, but the movie is so relentlessly overscored you just want to scream, “Shut up! Shut up!”
The name on the poster almost stopped me from watching Devil: M. Night Shyamalan. Movie tricksters are always welcome, but this one ran out of tricks years ago. The last Shyam movie I saw was Signs. Hydrophobic aliens from an advanced civilization invade the earth, and they don’t notice that it’s three-quarters water.
Turns out Devil was directed by John Eric Dowdle, based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan. It goes like this: Five complete strangers get stuck in an elevator and one of them is the devil. One by one the people die.
The real horror as far as I’m concerned is the ineptitude of the building security and maintenance staff. They have no emergency procedures. One guy services all the elevators in a 50-storey building. The security agency hires a temp with a long police record. The guards look dumbly at the CCTV screen as the body count rises both in and out of the elevator. This is scary because it probably happens in real life. This movie will convince you to take the stairs.
The Devil feels like an above-average episode of Twilight Zone. Much of the suspense is in waiting to see how the stupid people will get themselves killed. The mechanic who served in Afghanistan is cute. There is plenty of religious hooey. Of course there is a cheesy plot twist, you know who wrote it.
At one point they’re talking about the devil and someone says, “And just like that” and snaps his fingers. Immediately I had the urge to watch The Usual Suspects again. What a screenplay, what a cast. Keyser Soze is the devil.