If we were ever to publish a Top Ten Missed Opportunities list, this would be top of the pile. The fat cats at whom Oliver Stone took aim in 1987's original Wall Street have only grown more obese in the intervening years, and this time around, they're responsible for one of the worst economic meltdowns on record.
Wall Street and its speculators represent for a 2010 audience such a bloated target, it's hard to see how this movie managed to miss the mark so completely. Instead, Stone's sequel is let down by a dated bag of visual tricks of the type satirised by Brass Eye's infographic piss-takes. An animated graph tracing the stock market crash against the New York skyline - really, in a 21st century film? Who decided that would be a jazzy way of illustrating the financial crisis?
These cheery animations of global stock market meltdown sit ill at ease alongside an overly earnest yet puddle-deep exploration of the relationship between Jake Moore, Shia La Beouf's underwritten young gun banker with father figure issues, and Winnie Gekko, Carey Mulligan's even more underwritten young political blogger with even more father figure issues. That her father is none other than the first film's big shark Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) forces her character into the role of thankless story-glue, created purely to provide a reason to explore the relationship between callow prospective son-in-law and the hoary old star of the "greed is good" decade.
Douglas is admittedly great as Gekko and improves most of the scenes that he's in, but he's weirdly sidelined for the first half of the film, then saddled with a bizarre final curtain intervention in Jake and Winnie's fortunes. By this point in its 133 minute runtime, this baggy monster has lost its early appeal, seeming half in love with the easy irresponsibility of the risk-culture it ought to be tearing to shreds.
In a nutshell: A lumbering beast that's stately where it should be nimble. Best stick with the original film.
By Catherine Bray