Michael Shannon gets the thankless task of trying to humanize Wall Street's capitalist swine Gordon Gekko, right down to the speech about how hard work never really helped anybody get ahead and the passing of the moral buck on to the whole rotten, rigged, remorseless system. (Thankless because it's Gekko's gleeful inhumanity that makes the character fun to watch and hate.) And just to make things interesting, he has to do it in pale pastels and earth tones blanched by the Florida sunshine — he works in real estate instead of stocks, see, and a fair chunk of his time is spent conducting evictions on heartbroken homeowners in the wake of that market's crash. The amazing thing is that he mostly manages the job, passing his poison philosophy on to a hotel-dwelling construction worker (Andrew Garfield) who wants to buy back the family home. But the protege is the film's first weak point: his avowed decency — he loves his simple mom and moppety son! — is a flimsy thing, and its quick collapse leaves our hero both pathetic and despicable. Weak point number two is co-writer and director Ramin Bahrani's (At Any Price) failure to trim the fat off of several scenes. (2015) — Matthew Lickona
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