'Wall Street' sequel unlikely to be as popular as original with financial sector

By Christine Kearney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 25, 2010

NEW YORK -- Gordon Gekko, Michael Douglas's corporate-raider villain of the 1980s movie "Wall Street," has a new mantra: Greed is not just good -- it's legal, and it's everywhere.

But his words, and the sequel, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," which hit theaters this weekend, are unlikely to strike the same chord with securities traders and bankers that made Gekko a cult hero and the epitome of unabashed '80s financial excess, industry experts say.

"I don't think it will be as big an issue on Wall Street in terms of dirtying its image," said Igor Kirman, a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a major Wall Street law firm.

When "Wall Street" came out in 1987, the stock market had suffered a massive crash and Americans were angry. The film showed how bankers bought companies, stripped their assets, destroyed proud U.S. businesses and left countless blue-collar workers standing in unemployment lines.

Director Oliver Stone might be taking on Wall Street again, but in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial meltdown and a steady stream of scandals -- from Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme to the collapse of Lehman Brothers -- bankers are not worried about Stone's new film.

"Wall Street has been dragged through the mud in the last year or so. It has been scapegoated," Kirman said. "There is nothing that Oliver Stone is going to say . . . in this movie that our president has not said himself. It's not going to be a huge punch against Wall Street."

The movie met with mixed reviews during its premiere in May at the Cannes Film Festival. Since then, Stone said, he has spent three weeks doing extra editing.

Douglas is back as Gekko, but this time taking the blame for financial chicanery are major banks and those who run them.

Central to the film's plot is a love relationship between Gekko's daughter, portrayed by Carey Mulligan, and a young Wall Street trader named Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) whose aggressive business dealings land him in trouble.

"Someone reminded me I once said, 'Greed is good.' Now it seems it is legal, because everybody is drinking the same Kool-Aid," Gekko says at the beginning of the sequel, as he leaves prison after serving time for insider trading.

Stone, a longtime critic of unbridled capitalism whose father was a stockbroker, told reporters that while the film was timely, bubbles in the financial cycle are here to stay.

"Love and trust and greed and betrayal; they go on, and . . . they are equivalent to the '80s, and they are equivalent now," he said.

"The concept of American optimism, making money, being successful, is an ongoing part of the American ethos," said Stone, who has put forward contrarian views of America in such movies as "JFK" and "Nixon."

And if some on Wall Street would not go see the film because they don't like him, so be it, he said.

"If you look at it as a farmer . . . you don't sell all your crop to everybody," he said.

-- Reuters

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