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“Wall Street 2″ – not quite an awakening

[rating=3]

Gordon Gekko has been lying low. Biding his time in sing-sing away from the dollars and the greed and the sub-prime madness; he’s been plotting his come back with a Machiavellian precision as cold blooded as his lizard namesake. After-all “Money Never Sleeps.”

Armed with a cell phone the size of an ICBM, Gekko suffers the humiliation of being jettisoned from jail without so much as a rented limo to give him a ride – even rappers ride stretch these days.

While he’s been away for fraud, “greed got greedier” on Wall Street. Bretton James, CEO of Churchill Schwartz, and his cronies are putting the squeeze on old school banker Lou Zabel, head of Keller Zabel – breaking his balls and driving down the price of his bank’s shares from $79 to $3.

When Lou tries to bail out with some dignity, “Call it an even 4,” Bretton cuts him dead, “3 and not a dime more.” It’s a Harvard hatchet job amongst the leather and wood, a bunch of Ivy League gangsters taking out a rival in a heartbeat-if they had one.

Still, Zabel’s hot-shot protégé Jake Moore won’t roll over and be stiffed after this drive by liquidation. He may have the slicked back hair and the 1000 dollar suit, but deep down we know he’s a sweetheart trying to get everyone to invest in renewable energy.

Everyone thinks Jake is a crank for following his dream, just like Jeff Goldblum’s David Jason in “Deep Cover” trying to push his synthetic cocaine to investors. Crank or not, Jake has the smarts and the nerve to hurt Bretton – as well as a ready-made conscience in his fiancée Winnie, who just happens to be the estranged daughter of one Gordon Gekko.

Oliver Stone had a relatively quiet decade after his nuclear bomb directing style in his 90s movies like “Natural Born Killers” “U-Turn” and the excellent “Any Given Sunday.” These were movies as bulldozers, levelling audiences and auditoriums alike with their sheer audacity.

Perhaps he ran out of steam because his 00s films have been moderate in comparison. “Twin Towers” was pedestrian and “W” beautifully restrained. The flames of his anger seem diminished and even the “masters of the universe” can’t get him riled.

“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” is a gentle slap of the glove across the cheek of disaster capitalism rather than a devastating punch in the face it deserves. It’s a good movie but it isn’t a great one. We’re interested but not intrigued.

Douglas’ Gekko just isn’t in it enough and that flawed decision leaves Shia LaBeouf’s Jake to drive the action. He doesn’t have the sleaze factor that made Charlie Sheen’s Bud Fox so cutely corruptible. You can just imagine Sheen’s reaction if he was faced with the line, “You should start to call me Gordon.”

Brolin is fine as Jake’s nemesis Bretton, but at times the menace is as flimsy as the deals his investment bank is propped up on. Carey Mulligan provides the emotional depth to the movie and her key scene with Douglas is well developed. However, her hold on Jake never seems in doubt and this harms the film as we don’t fear for their relationship the way we should to make the redemptive ending fulfilling and believable.

Thankfully, there are flashes of Stone’s directorial genius still on view. The charity fund raising dinner is a spectacular, Pat Butcher heaven as Stone zeroes in on the million dollar earrings that corrode the screen with their preposterous dimensions, dangling from the ears of the wives of Wall Street’s elite.

“Money” may be a “bitch that never sleeps” but every once in a while “Wall Street 2” nips out to catch 40 winks when it thinks no one is looking.