Review: Wall Street, Money Never Sleeps

Will Hodges takes a look at banking on the silver screen
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Will Hodges takes a look at banking on the silver screen

I am a massive fan of the original Wall Street. But Money Never Sleeps is not a patch on the original. It is worth watching though, if only because it is Hollywood's first attempt to deal with the financial crisis.

The film follows hot-shot young trader Jake Moore against the backdrop of the collapsing US financial system. Moore's situation is complicated by his relationship with the former hedge fund manager Gordon Gekko, who is working his way back to the top after being jailed for eight years for financial fraud. Gekko just so happens to be the father of Moore's sweetheart Winnie, played by Carey Mulligan. In exchange for reuniting him with his estranged daughter, Gekko helps Moore plot his revenge against villainous investment banker Bretton James (Josh Brolin), the man responsible for ruining his company, and the suicide of his mentor.

The plot, which gets even more complicated (and frankly, slightly ridiculous) is entertaining enough; the real intrigue of the film, however, lies in the insight it gives into the financial crisis. The film's best scenes are those depicting the meetings between Wall Street's big hitters and the Federal Reserve as they attempt to save their way of life.

Sadly, however, the man who coined the phrase "Greed - is good", and inspired a generation of wannabe financial masterminds, lacks the gravitas and snarl of the original. The film shows Gekko and ilk may still play a role in modern finance, but his time has surely passed as a cinematic icon.

Money on film - the all-time top five

Wall Street

Wall Street is awesome. 23 years on, Oliver Stone's masterpiece remains unchallenged as a portrayal of the US financial sector. Hedge fund manager Gekko, immaculately played by the then little known Michael Douglas, corrupts Charlie Sheen's ambitious young stockbroker, enveloping him in the shady world of insider trading. Stone perfectly encapsulates the yuppie culture of the 1980s and, comical mobile phones aside, the film has hardly dated.

American Psycho

A loathsome - and absolutely brilliant - performance by Christian Bale as a sociopathic New York investment banker. Based on the book of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis, the film centres on Patrick Bateman, disaffected Wall Street financier and society-hating serial killer. Brutal and violent, both film and book are a vicious attack on the shallowness and materialism of modernity. Despite some controversy on release, the film remains a cult classic.


Freefall portrays the lives of several Londoners against the backdrop of 2008's banking sector collapse. Dominic Cooper plays a morally bankrupt mortgage broker whose lust for cash destroys the lives of a working class couple. Meanwhile Aidan Gillen and Rosamund Pike watch their shiny world of CDOs fall into ruin.

Rogue Trader

Before Jérôme Kerviel and Soc Gen there was Nick Leeson and Barings Bank. Never heard of Barings? That's because, back in 1995, Leeson single-handedly orchestrated its downfall with a series of disastrous trades, which eventually led to his imprisonment for six and a half years. Based on Leeson's autobiography, Rogue Trader stars Ewan McGregor.

Trading Places

Before Eddie Murphy made dross like Norbit, he was responsible for comedy genius like Trading Places. Murphy plays a down-and-out who, through a series of preposterous events, swaps lives with Dan Aykroyd's well-heeled commodities trader.

Who should watch this:

Anyone who took an interest in the drama of the financial crisis.

The best bit:

The fraught set pieces as Manhattan's bankers face financial Armageddon.

Main criticism:

Gekko hasn't aged well...

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