Deborah Hill Cone

Deborah Hill Cone is a Herald columnist

Deborah Hill Cone: Wall Street's villain emasculated

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Forget redemption - Gordon Gekko needs to rediscover his manhood.

Michael Douglas and Shia LaBeouf in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Photo / Supplied
Michael Douglas and Shia LaBeouf in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Photo / Supplied

Oh dear Gordon Gekko, what happened to you? Greed is no longer good and you appear to have had your balls chopped off. I just went to a glamorous preview of Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, Oliver Stone's sequel to the original film in which Michael Douglas played unscrupulous corporate raider Gordon Gekko - who got his comeuppance at the end of that film when he was about to be jailed for insider trading.

Law firm Bell Gully threw a party for 400 people, booking out the entire Newmarket multiplex to showcase the follow-up movie. It was a ballsy gesture in a moribund market - champagne-on-tap soirees are a bit thin on the ground these days unless they have the figleaf of charity or someone is getting an award.

Before the film, a welcome message was screened from Bell Gully managing partner Roger Partridge, filmed apparently in New York where he was visiting alumni of the firm and cleverly editing in bits of footage from the original Wall Street so it looked as though he was talking to the young Gordon Gekko on a cellphone the size of a brick.

So far, surprisingly droll for a usually buttoned-up law firm. And I was looking forward to seeing the film. I imagined dirty old lefty Stone would have something searing to say about the global financial collapse. I just didn't think it would be the banal and sentimental message of a first-year media studies student.

In Stone's world, "good people" like Gekko's estranged daughter Winnie and her boyfriend, Jacob, lobby for alternative energy, wear humble flannelette shirts, run liberal websites, "forget" that they have $100 million in a secret bank account in Switzerland because they don't care about money - but also happen to live in a museum-sized loft apartment with modernist furniture.

The film opens as Gekko gets out of gaol. No one is waiting for him and the film's plot centres on his attempts to repair his severed relationship with his daughter.

Does this ring true to you? Stone, sadly, doesn't seem to understand the narcissistic character of power addicts - and he's a film director so he shouldn't have to look far. It is not about the money - it's a primal hunger inside them which is filled up by the next deal - just like a gambling addict or an alcoholic or Citizen Kane with Rosebud. And if you know anything about this kind of personality, you'd know that they don't usually have schmaltzy sentimental feelings about the in-utero scan of their soon-to-be grandchild.

But Stone's judgment was clouded by our collective crushing desire for redemption - a desperate need to be forgiven for the pre-2008 financial market excesses. There is only one thing to say, which is that - at least by the end - Gekko has seen the error of his ways. It's deeply tedious and quite wrong.

The world needs Gordon Gekkos. Contrary to Stone's whimsical view of human nature, they don't tend to be late-blooming family men but they have other attributes when it comes to pushing the boundaries of human achievement. If someone does make a history-changing breakthrough that solves, say, global warming, betcha it will be a Gordon Gekko bastard - not an earnest plaid shirt-wearing loft-dwelling liberal. If all the Gekkos in the world don't lose their balls, that is.

dhc@deborahhillcone.com

- NZ Herald

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