Friday, December 24, 2010

Double Movie with Abe: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps & Inside Job

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Directed by Oliver Stone
Released September 24, 2010

Inside Job
Directed by Charles Ferguson
Released October 8, 2010

It’s extraordinarily rare for a director to return to make a sequel to a well-received, Oscar-winning movie. It’s just as uncommon for the lead star (and previously mentioned Oscar winner) to reprise his role in the follow-up film. It’s even rarer for both to occur together over twenty years after the release of the first film. While all those factors can indicate potential for a strong film, sometimes it still doesn’t pan out too well. In the case of “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” which reunites director Oliver Stone with Michael Douglas, the star of his 1987 film, there’s much left to be desired.

It’s interesting to consider “Wall Street 2,” which opened back in September and is now available on DVD, alongside “Inside Job,” a highly buzzed-about documentary still playing in limited release. It might seem a bit strange to compare the fictionalized drama with a piece of nonfiction investigative reporting, but both films center on the same theme: the collapse of the economy and its effect on those whose daily lives revolve around the stock market. In some ways, it’s unfair to consider them in the same review, but in light of the former film’s positioning of its fictional characters in a parallel of real-life events, it feels especially appropriate.

At its core, “Wall Street 2” is a story about individual people and their own quests for the good life. “Inside Job” chronicles one man’s efforts to unmask the motivations and, more importantly, the actions of those people who managed to walk away from their extensive involvement in the collapse of the economy without their roles in the lead-up to the crisis or their hefty takeaways revealed. “Wall Street 2” lays out the culprits for the audience to see and allows them a direct view of all of their actions, while “Inside Job” director Charles Ferguson has to do his own poking and prodding to locate the culprits.

Ultimately, “Wall Street 2” is little more than a story of revenge with an emphasis on the often shaky difference between good and evil. Go-to franchise rebooter Shia LaBeouf, who has also assisted in the revival of both the “Indiana Jones” and “Transformers” series the recent years, is supposed to be the moral core of the film, but he turns out to be a rather one-dimensional character, focusing most of his efforts on trying to sound and act like a Long Island native. Josh Brolin is especially cartoonish as a bad guy billionaire, and Carey Mulligan needs to pick more substantial roles than this. The film really does belong to Douglas, who effortlessly uses his fantastic cinematic voice to anchor an otherwise uninventive and poorly told story.

In contrast, “Inside Job” is chock full of facts and figures, providing a comprehensive report on the international causes of the economic collapse and how it could have been prevented. While he’s nowhere near as annoying and pushy as Michael Moore, Ferguson does press some of his subjects, responding “are you kidding me?” to their assertions and refusing to back down. It’s often hard to tell whether the interviewee has been selected as a witness for the prosecution or the defense, and that’s one of the film’s strongest assets. “Inside Job” is easily one of this year’s most interesting, enlightening, and entertaining documentaries. In this case, stick with the truth – it will be a more rewarding (though not necessarily financially) experience.

Wall Street 2: C-
Inside Job: B+

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