In Oliver Stone’s Wall
Street: Money Never Sleeps, Michael Douglas reprises his 1987
Oscar-winning role as the evil corporate raider/inside trader Gordon
Gekko. This certainly isn’t an inspirational movie for the discerning
Christian viewer, but because of its commentary on the dangers and
trappings of money, I thought I would recommend it.
Gekko is a fascinating character
who keeps the viewer guessing, wondering if there might be a smidgen of
good in his soul somewhere. And just when you think he might be a
well-meaning, misunderstood capitalist, he proves that he is evil to
the core. I believe this element of the original movie is what made the
story so much fun. The sequel isn’t quite as thrilling, but it does
give a good perspective on how excessive money can literally bring the
devil out in a person.
The movie opens with Gekko’s
release from prison after serving eight years for insider trading and
mail fraud. With a hundred dollars in his pocket and a few trinkets
from the past, he catches a cab into New York City—alone, with no one
to greet him. Flash forward seven years later, and we meet his lovely
daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), who is dating our protagonist, Jake
Moore (Shia Lebouf), who has a job on Wall Street with a high-powered
investment banking firm.
While Winnie wants nothing to do
with her father, Jake is intrigued and secretly attends a lecture where
Gekko touts his new book, Is Greed Good? The
dialogue is excellent, and in about five minutes, Gekko (and Oliver
Stone, one of the screenwriters) proceeds to tell the moviegoer exactly
what is wrong with the American economy. His mantra is that all of our
financial woes stem from one thing: personal greed. Ironic, coming from
a greedy corporate thief.
Because of the fast-paced
dialogue and complicated plot, I had to stop the DVD several times and
confer with my financier husband to get a grip on the story.
Regardless, the filmmakers did a very good job of describing how the
financial crash in the fall of 2009 came about, which made for an
intriguing story. Jake’s firm is hit hard by the crisis, needing a
bailout or else it will go bankrupt. As a result, Jake’s mentor, the
head of the firm (played by Frank Langella), commits suicide.
When Jake learns from Gekko that
a competing firm was behind the demise, he sets out for revenge against
its managing partner, Brettan James (Josh Brolin). With Gekko’s help in
the market, Jake takes down the competing firm but risks
losing Winnie in the process. I felt like I was watching a Western
drama, but instead of cowboys with guns and knives, this was a war of
investment bankers using speculation, rumor, and the stock market to
make their point.
movie does an excellent job of showing an immediate, instantaneous
change that can happen in a person when great wealth comes their way.
Jake becomes a different person with different desires and motivations
when he discovers that Gekko has stashed a hundred million dollars in a
Swiss bank account in Winnie’s name. She wants nothing to do with the
money, but Jake sees things differently. He views her fortune as a
means to invest in new energy technology, which could bring them even
more money and power, thus fulfilling his newfound lust for greed.
Despite having access to
Winnie’s millions, Jake follows Gekko on a dangerous ride down the road
of greed to a place where wealth surpasses what the normal man can
comprehend. Here the story takes an abrupt turn, and Gekko proves to
Jake that greed isn’t really about money after all—it’s about playing
the game and beating out the other guy, regardless of who gets in the
way. Is your skin crawling? Mine was.
There is a great line in the
film where Jake asks James how much money would be enough for him to be
satisfied in life—an exact dollar amount. James hesitates for a moment,
smiles, and answers, “More.” This is a profound statement that is based
on spiritual truth: there can never, ever be enough money or worldly
possessions that will satisfy mankind. Ecclesiastes 3:11 instructs that
God has set eternity in the hearts of men, and it can only be filled
with Jesus Christ. Money pushes, demands, hurts and leaves one empty
and lonely, just like Gordon Gekko.
I wouldn’t recommend this movie
as solid family entertainment, but it could be used as a lesson to
young, impressionable capitalists who believe money will make them
happy. God has no problem with His children being financially
prosperous; the problem is what it can do to them if they are like Jake
and are ill prepared to handle wealth. I liken dumping a hundred
million dollars in the lap of most Christians to giving a five-year-old
child the keys to a brand-new Mercedes-Benz.
Watch this movie if you want
some fun entertainment, or if you’re feeling a little jealous of the
billionaire club and want to appreciate the wonderful gift God has
given you in knowing Him and His son, Jesus Christ. All of us who have
the peace in knowing Jesus are wealthy beyond anything man can think or