"I don't know that any one of these movies individually is going to be a hit, but there is certainly a market for them," Reich said. "There's a tendency in the -- shall we call it quote-unquote -- establishment to minimize the degree of anger toward Wall Street, big business and Washington. I've never seen anything like it. It is real rage. It comes out of economic insecurity, fear, anxiety, frustration."
When "Wall Street" hit theaters 23 years ago, the stock market had suffered a devastating crash. Americans were enraged. Bankers swallowed up companies and gutted their assets. Businesses were shuttered and workers sent packing. Gordon Gekko, the archetypal villain played by Michael Douglas, epitomized the lust for money and power. "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good," he proclaimed.
Now, in the sequel, Gekko is back after a stint in a federal prison. No one meets the ruthless corporate raider at the prison gate. "Someone reminded me I once said, 'Greed is good,' now it seems it is legal, because everybody is drinking the same Kool-Aid," he says in the sequel.
"It's a different entire economy, way beyond anything I thought possible would happen in 1987," Stone told the crowd. "It's like a combination of Reagan, Clinton and Bush Jr. and Bush Sr. all kicked in over 30 ... years of deregulation and created this environment. It really is a systematic failure. The banks became what Gekko was."
At least one partner at a major Wall Street law firm, who asked not to be identified, said the sequel will not resonate as strongly as the first film among traders and bankers.
"Will it be a big earthquake on Wall Street? I don't think so," said the corporate lawyer. "My expectation is that for the most part, this will be a shoulder-shrugging affair on Wall Street. I say this not because I think the movies are going to be tame in their criticism, but because the criticism has been so loud and so direct and so persistent from our political classes, that this movie is like bringing water to the ocean."
The lawyer said Wall Streeters will see "Money Never Sleeps" purely for entertainment value, to catch the next installment of a cult classic in the industry. The message, however, is incidental and somewhat dated. "It's a year too late in a way," he said. "The politicians have beaten Oliver Stone to it."
Reich disagreed. "It would be too late if we were in vigorous recovery, if people saw their jobs coming back, if there was a great sigh of relief palpable in the public," said Reich, who is himself promoting his new book on the economy, "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future." "But that ain't the case. The devastation wrought by Wall Street is still very much a reality for most people. They're furious."