What a blast it is to watch Michael Douglas reconnect with the role of Gordon Gekko in the new “Wall Street” sequel “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”
The movie is flawed in terms of plotting and tone — so was the first one — but the authority that Douglas brings to his performance blotted out any of my small objections to writer-director Oliver Stone’s return to the financial action in downtown Manhattan.
The wit and the emotional power and the charisma Michael Douglas brings to his great morally conflicted (and Oscar-winning) character is quite awesome.
In the first “Wall Street” movie Gekko was a man you loved to hate.
In “Money Never Sleeps” Gekko is simply a character you love despite all of his obvious flaws. Things have gotten so sleazy and so dangerous in the financial markets since Gordon went to jail that he seems almost innocent in comparison with the hedge fund folks and the insiders who made money on the near collapse of the United States economy two years ago.
Without ever dimming the financial tycoon’s darker impulses, Douglas adds new emotional shadings to Gekko, especially in scenes where we see that he has become aware of the family life he discarded on his way to the top and then during his years in the slammer.
The wicked humor of Gekko was the thing I most enjoyed about the character in 1987. In the new movie, it’s the mix of sly wit and sudden surges of warmer emotions that make the performance so wonderful (I don’t think Douglas has ever been better than he is in the scene on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum where he explains what he did to try to save his drug addict son’s life).
Between you and me, I think Michael Douglas has long since surpassed his beloved actor dad Kirk in terms of the range and quality of the performances he has given since he became a full-fledged movie star in “Romancing the Stone” 26 years ago.
Michael Douglas has the emotional ferocity that made his father so thrilling to watch in movies like “Spartacus” and “Ace in the Hole” but Kirk tended to go a bit too far — the grin got too sinister, the voice too loud — for us to be able to see all of the humanity in the characters he played.
Michael Douglas stands virtually alone in contemporary Hollywood for his continuing interest in playing deeply flawed men — can you imagine Harrison Ford in “Basic Instinct” or “Disclosure”? The actor makes his “villains” as human as his heroes, which is one of the reasons his performances remain so alive and so unpredictably witty years after he commits them to celluloid.