CANNES, France (Reuters) - Rumors, insider deals and rampant speculation drive markets down and companies to bankruptcy in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps", which weaves fiction with the fact of the global financial crisis.
Oliver Stone returns to the scene of his 1987 hit "Wall Street", and Michael Douglas is back as ruthless corporate raider Gordon Gekko in a film where big banks have replaced the greedy individual as the bad guys.
Part morality tale, part revenge thriller and part analysis of where the financial markets and regulatory authorities went wrong, the movie has its world premiere at the Cannes film festival on Friday ahead of a theatrical release in September.
Timely and topical as concerns over the strength of the economic recovery grow, Stone said he, like others, was confused about whether he thought capitalism was a good or a bad thing.
"It seems that it's excessive and unregulated and I would love to see serious reform," Stone told reporters after a press screening. "There are tremendous issues worldwide, I mean it goes to Greece and England and Spain and Portugal.
"In 1987 I thought it was going to correct itself. I thought the system will correct, but it didn't, it got worse.
"There was a tremendous gap between who made money and who didn't make money ... Stockholders and CEO's made money but working people did not," he added. "There's a tremendous inequality and injustice in that and that has to be corrected."
Douglas, who won an Oscar for the original film, said the new movie's relevance to events was not necessarily a blessing.
"One should not think because Wall Street is in the news that it necessarily helps our movie," he said.
"I think for the marketers that is going to be the dilemma -- how do you make an audience think that they haven't already seen the movie on television, watching the news every night."
In the follow-up, Gekko's daughter Winnie, played by Carey Mulligan, is the movie's moral center who is in a relationship with Jake Moore.
Shia LaBeouf takes on the role of the brash young trader who blends ambition and avarice with altruism through his commitment to investing in green energy projects.
His company falls victim to a hostile takeover manufactured by a rival banker Bretton James (Josh Brolin), prompting Moore to seek revenge.
At the same time Gekko is out of jail after serving eight years for financial crimes, and wants to win back the millions he lost as well as the affections of his estranged daughter.
Douglas said he and Stone had been "stunned" that the original Gekko was idolized by many Wall Street aspirants.
"We just never anticipated that all these ... people in business school would just be ranting and raving that this was the person that they wanted to be," he told reporters.
Reflecting the passage of time in the latest film, Gekko is handed back a giant mobile phone when he leaves prison, and rather than repeating the mantra of the original movie that "greed is good", he now speaks about how "greed got greedier".
On a lecture tour to promote his new book "Is Greed Good?" he attacks complex derivatives that only a handful of people understand, calling them "weapons of mass destruction", and argues that speculation is "the mother of all evils".
Today's young people, he adds, are the "NINJA" generation -- "No income, no jobs, no assets".
Additional reporting by Bob Tourtellotte, reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato