In the original 1987 film, Wall Street, iconic slimeball Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas) summarised the Reagan-Thatcher era in three words, “Greed… is good.”
Gecko got his comeuppance at the film’s end as his one-time protege exposed his insider trading.
The financial collapse of 2008 is the background to Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. We see Gecko released from prison a changed man.
As the financial system starts seizing up, he delivers a lecture to a hall of US students, telling them that Wall Street’s weapons of financial mass destruction are about to explode.
Shia LeBeof plays Jake Moore, a young New Yorker working at a Wall Street investment bank who is dating Gecko’s estranged daughter.
Jake’s employer is basically Lehman Brothers in its last few weeks before bankruptcy.
The arch villain of the film is Bretton James (Josh Brolin), CEO of Churchill Schwartz—which stands in for the real Goldman Sachs.
Bretton’s amoral pursuit of power provides Jake with a way to fulfil his more idealistic ambition of funding research into clean energy technology.
Jake’s disillusion with Brolin develops as Gecko attempts to rebuild his relationship with his daughter.
It is easy to sympathise with Winnie Gecko’s distrust of her father, while Jake wants to give him a second chance.
This is a great film. But as it reaches 2009, the previous year’s panic seems to be forgotten, and the viewer could be forgiven for thinking it was just a storm in a big teacup.
Despite this “crisis over” atmosphere at the end, I would recommend this film as a break from reading economics textbooks any day.