Reel Critics: 'Wall Street' sequel not hard-hitting enough for Stone

In "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," director Oliver Stone revisits the bad boys of high finance in this sequel to his acclaimed "Wall Street" (1987). Michael Douglas reprises his Oscar-winning performance as the slimy Gordon Gekko. Newly released from federal prison, he publishes a book challenging the "Greed Is Good" credo of his previous life.

Josh Brolin plays his old rival who fared very well while Gekko served his time. Shia LaBeouf plays his new hotshot protégé learning the tricks of the trade. Carey Mulligan is Gekko's estranged daughter. She rejects her father's legacy and adds a politically correct subplot. She works to raise money for a new green energy start-up company.

The plot wants to be timely. It focuses squarely on the subprime mortgage madness of the last few years. It blasts the unregulated financial derivatives that brought down the modern bankers and their house of cards. Scenes inside the opulent offices of the Federal Reserve and major investment firms give life to the extravagant lifestyle of the big money players.

But the great production values can't push this film into top-tier status. It's good, but not great. And the attack on the excesses of our biggest corporations lacks the hard-hitting punch you expect from Oliver Stone.

A very unusual mix of art film and sci-fi

With its soft, muted color palette and delicate music, there is a timeless quality about "Never Let Me Go" that feels like it could be taking place in 1878, rather than 100 years later.

This is a movie about love and life and how precious little time we have to enjoy it. Some may find the slow pacing boring in spite of the amazing performances. For me, the slow buildup led to an unexpectedly devastating ending.

Not having read Kazuo Ishiguro's 2005 novel, I only knew it was a love triangle that forms when Cathy, Tommy and Ruth are children at the Hailsham school in Britain.

The students are told they are "special," and are indeed rather remarkable for being so eerily placid and well-mannered.

As they grow up, Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) become a couple, even though it's obvious that Tommy loves Kathy (Carey Mulligan). Ruth seems to be the only one to know this, as she cruelly taunts Kathy for being the odd girl out.

The secret behind Hailsham and the fates of these three is quietly, horribly revealed about midway through the film. What sets it apart from being a sci-fi shocker is the resignation and acceptance with which everyone greets their fate. There is no questioning of ethics or technology, and that is how this movie really gets under your skin.

JOHN DEPKO is a Costa Mesa resident and a senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a financial services company.

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