It's impossible to psychoanalyze Oliver Stone, but something stole both his political nerve and aesthetic sense. Michael Douglas learned lines written on the set, and he portrays a wondrously reptilian character during most of the film, but the script has no edge, no profound insight, no powerful drama, no serious debate. Gordon Gekko is an empty prophet who offers little beyond the glib notion that economic failures repeat themselves because "we like being lied to." Merely sound, without fury.
It's difficult, however, not to appreciate the unintended poignancy that pervades the movie as the leading character describes money several times as a "cancer" spreading through Wall Street. Who cannot wince, knowing that Douglas is suffering from throat cancer, when his character says that "money is not the prime asset in life, time is."
But movies aren't made by off-camera experiences, and the line rings hollow in the voice of the fictional character. So does the sappy ending.
No one expected Oliver Stone to produce a movie about tea parties and the anger of Americans over the way taxpayer money has been squandered to bail out the irresponsibly rich on the real Wall Street. But ending the movie with Gekko, the villain of Wall Street, cynically using the greenbacks he has made through nefarious means to support an experimental green energy lab that turns sea water into fuel, gives ironic meaning to "Money Never Sleeps." The director can't distinguish between the nightmare that has gripped the country and his own fanciful dreams.