Monday 18 December 2017

Gekko has lost the plot

Oliver stone's monster of wall street is out of the clink and on a slippery slope to more dirty Greedy dealingsWALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS Drama. Starring Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin, Frank Langella, Eli Wallach, Susan Sarandon. Directed by Oliver Stone. Cert 12A

Money Never Sleeps opens in 2001 with Gekko emerging from prison after serving an eight-year stretch for his dodgy dealings and looking an unloved and lost figure. The impression that he's yesterday's man is reinforced when a prison officer returns his mobile phone, which is the size of a brick.

Fast forward to 2008 and we're introduced to Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf), a rising star at an investment bank headed by the avuncular Louis Zabel (Frank Langella). Jacob has been presented with a cheque just shy of $1.5m by way of a bonus and is eager to propose to his girlfriend Winnie (Carey Mulligan). She writes for a right-on online investigative website and just happens to be Gekko's estranged daughter.

Even at this stage the plot is creaking and contrived. When Zabel commits suicide following a hostile takeover of his bank by ruthless rival Bretton James (Josh Brolin), it sparks Jacob to take a job with his mentor's nemesis and make contact with Gekko for advice on how to take him down.

Of course, despite being given a back-story involving the suicide of his son while he was in jail to elicit some level of sympathy, we know that Gekko can't help the way he's wired and is using Jacob for his own nefarious ends.

By midway through the movie the story is darting off at odd angles. Douglas has one grandstand scene as he addresses an audience of hero-worshipping Wall Street yuppies for the launch of his book Is Greed Good? and tells them that the system and world they inhabit is, essentially, a fraud, but otherwise Stone fails to make the most of the character.

As the financial markets collapse we see the fallout impact on peripheral characters such as Jacob's mother (Susan Sarandon), a former nurse who got caught up in real estate speculation; while there's a memorable turn from Eli Wallach as a Wall Street veteran who's old enough to remember the 1929 crash and sees history repeating itself.

Bitty, unsure of itself and crammed with jargon, Money Never Sleeps has the benefit of good performances from LaBeouf and Mulligan but will, I fear, prove to be a very hard sell to Irish audiences. Given that the horror stories about the ruin of our economy are worsening daily, I'd imagine that the last thing people want, should they be able to afford a trip to the cinema, is a story about greedy bankers screwing up the lives of ordinary people. HHIII

Based on the self-mythologising memoirs of international drug smuggler Howard Marks, Mr Nice is a slapdash, awkward and at times shoddy production as we follow Marks' rise from the Welsh valleys to Oxford for the swinging '60s and having his outlook on life changed when he smokes cannabis for the first time.

Director Bernard Rose (who also helmed the superior horror Candyman and the Beethoven biopic Immortal Beloved) then delivers little more than 'Carry on Drug Dealing', as we get to see Marks have several close encounters with the law.

In fairness, Rhys Ifans (inset above) does a reasonable job portraying Marks, even if he's too old to convince in the Oxford section, but the problem with the film is its jaunty tone, which extends to unbelievable Paddywhackery when we see contraband being brought through a Shannon airport populated by characters who'd been rejected for Killinaskully.

David Thewlis gets to go overboard as a caricatured IRA man and Chloe Sevigny develops severe accentitis as Marks' wife. But there's a great big moral elephant lurking in the corner of every frame: namely, that no matter how much Marks likes to portray himself as a Robin Hood-type figure bringing cannabis to those who like a toke, the fact remains that he was a drug smuggler who had to pass on the goods to people who aren't swaggering, chilled-out Ron Wood lookalikes, but serious criminals.

It's an issue which Rose hasn't addressed at all, which only adds a layer of misplaced jollity to a deceitful and dishonest film. HHIII

The film derives its title from a firebase the troops construct to give themselves an edge over their opponents and named in memory of one of their unit who was killed two months into the deployment.

This is a raw and moving piece of work, capturing the looks of frustration and fear on the faces of the men but refusing to batter the viewer with obvious points about the futility of trying to impose Western ideas of democracy on a society which is practically medieval. Recommended. HHHHI

However, when Alison and Peter are killed in a road accident, Holly and Messer discover to their surprise that they've been made guardians of the couple's one-year-old baby daughter and are required to live together in their deceased friends' house, despite the fact that they can't stand each other.

You can figure from the off how this is going to pan out but what's really odd is how the material lurches from tragic to comic with so little logic, leaving Heigl and Duhamel floundering and wondering what type of movie they're in from scene to scene. HHIII

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