Wall Street Review
After storming the world with his multi-Oscar-winning Platoon, Oliver Stone chose a subject completely unrelated to the war in Vietnam, or was it? Starring Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Darryl Hannah and Martin Sheen, Wall Street was Stone's unflinching account of the ruthless capitalist-eighties stock market and what some will do in order to reach the top of the tree. The film even earned Michael Douglas an Oscar for Best Actor, as charismatic cutthroat Gordon Gekko, a character forever talked about when discussing memorable movie villains.
Greed Is Good. Wall Street tells of young Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), who has emerged from his working-class origins to become a broker for a minor stock firm. Fox's job involves working the phones, pressuring new clients/victims into investing and meeting his targets. Fox's dream is to be 'on the other side'; he wants to be the ultimate stock-player. Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is the man Fox wants to be. Fox has a plan in which he hopes to sell Gekko stock, and thus become friendly with him and observe how the 'master' works. On the fortieth consecutive day of trying to arrange an appointment with Gekko, Fox waits at Gekko's office with a box of expensive Havana cigars, and Gekko is slightly impressed to grant Fox a meeting. Seeing this as his only opportunity to make it big, Fox passes Gekko some insider information. Fox acquired this information from his father, who works as a mechanic for an aircraft company and is also their trade union leader. Gekko makes a killing based on Fox's information, and opens up an account with the young apprentice, as long as Fox spies on competitors and provides more insider information. Despite the legality of these actions, Fox observes that if he wants to move up in the world, then this is how to do it. Fox angers his father Carl (Martin Sheen) by this ideology, as Carl has always strove to bring his son up on a decent, moralistic approach to life that believes money not to be the most important life commodity. Bud however, turns his back on his father. Lou Mannheim (Hal Hobrook) an old and respected broker, warns Fox that - "The main thing about money, it makes you do things you don't want to do" and eventually, the walls start to tumble in on Fox's overnight-success.
On the surface, Wall Street is galaxies away from Platoon, and yet a far closer inspection reveals that the two are almost inter-related. Wall Street is almost like Platoon when the war is over. Rather than having battles fought with weaponry in the jungles of Vietnam, the jungle is the office, in which companies and their boundaries represent countries. Rather than occupying a country and killing its inhabitants, companies are sucked up by large corporations and employees laid-off. You only have to look at the film's use of rhetoric. Terms such as raiding, kill-zone, lock-and-load, total-liquidation, make-a-killing are all employed in the most ruthless business sense.
Another similarity between Wall Street and Platoon is the central theme - in that it depicts two father figures vying for the protagonists' soul. In Wall Street's case, Gekko is presented as the unscrupulous, hyper-consuming, amoral cut-throat and Carl Fox the value fuelled moralist who places integrity before personal gain. Just like in Platoon, the young misguided youth has to undergo the act of ruining one of the father's in order to ultimately accept the other. Wall Street is purely a men's world. Even women are seen almost as corporate acquisitions for male entrepreneurs, and this is reflected in Gekko passing on his mistress Darien (Darryl Hannah) over to Bud as if he is merely lending him a good rock album.
The world of Wall Street suggests that it is also completely postmodern. The only thing that matters is appearance. Surface is important, what is beneath is not. Gekko encapsulates this notion perfectly. He has untold riches, glamorous wife, a mistress, valuable rare art, a handful of luxurious properties, and yet these are just possessions to outplay his competitors. He doesn't obtain these items because he wants them, he obtains them because he can, and because it shows how rich he is. As Gekko says himself - "I create nothing. I own," and this suggests his gluttonous persona. As long as Gekko is winning/eating his competition, nothing else matters to him. Even love has no appeal to him. His belief that 'love is created to stop people jumping from windows' suggests even his lack of necessity for the opposite sex. As he says "making a killing on a deal is better than sex". The name Gekko itself is derived from the Gekkonidae lizard known for its stubborn and selfish attitude.
Although Oliver Stone's film has fallen by the wayside in recent years due to it being primarily about a particular time and place in American history (the eighties), it is still a thoughtful and intelligent piece of work played out forcefully along Stone's style-book. The performance By Douglas is first-rate, and he consumes the character of Gordon Gekko as if he wants to actually be him. Sheen is very good in support as the naïve Bud Fox, but he was better as Chris Taylor in Platoon. Darryl Hannah is disappointing as Darien, and is nothing more than an attractive object, much like the character of Darien herself. Martin Sheen turns in a respectable performance as the wise Carl Fox, who seems to understand humanity better than anyone else in the movie does. Terence Stamp, Sean Young, John C. McGinley and Saul Rubinek all provide strong support for the principal lead roles. The musical cuts selected by Stone are well chosen and help convey the sense of urban battle. This is particularly evident in the Brian Eno / David Byrne compositions and in particular the excellent Talking Heads track This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody).
Wall Street has a dated charm but still wallops the audience in it's clinical approach to illustrating the war-zone of stockbrokers. It's more worthy as a study of Michael Douglas' fine performance as Gekko or as a comparison to Platoon as opposed to its own achievements, but despite this, the film is still an excellent career notch for Oliver Stone.
Academy Awards 1987
Best Actor - Michael Douglas
Academy Award Nominations 1987
Presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen, the picture is impressive for the most part, with a few instances of dirt, grain and speckles. The film has a dated eighties visual quality to it, and at times the print is excessively soft and over-gloomy. Even so, it's refreshing to finally have Wall Street in widescreen, and the print is mostly very acceptable.
The sound track is presented in a 5.1 mix, but this is mostly a 2.0 mix with a few surround elements thrown in for the musical tracks. Dialogue is mostly mono, with a few sound effect elements occupying the left and right channels. Even so, the track is recorded crisply and is clearly audible. An English 2.0 track is also provided.
Menu: A pseudo-animated menu which is actually composed of static images with a few stock quote numbers floating over it.
Packaging: Presented in an amaray with a minimalist and bland front-cover artwork. A one-page chapter listing insert is also provided.
Audio Commentary With Oliver Stone: Another excellent commentary from Oliver Stone, who has contributed a commentary to most of his movie output. Stone isn't shy to talk about his thoughts on the film, along with his relationship with his father (who died a year before the film was made) which prompted him to make the film and dedicate it to him. There are a few pauses, which is natural if the participant is alone, but Stone still reveals enough anecdotes and insight to make the commentary very interesting.
Money Never Sleeps - Documentary: This is another worthy extra, in that it is an excellent forty-seven minute documentary featuring interviews from the full list of cast and crew complete with behind-the-scenes footage. As a companion to the Oliver Stone commentary, this documentary is priceless, and expands on many of the Stone's comments. Out of the information shared, the most interesting is the notion that all of the crew felt that Darryl Hannah was terrible as Darien, and that she and Sean Young should have swapped roles. Also, Martin Sheen admits he was wrong over arguing with Stone over how to show emotion for his on-screen and real-life son, claiming that the director's results proved successful.
Trailers: Two trailers are also provided, one is longer than the other, but features eighties-style slick editing and a good summary of the film's plot.
A powerful and ruthless depiction of corporate greed, Wall Street still pushes all of the right buttons, and is another excellent example of Oliver Stone's talents. The picture and sound qualities could be better, but the extras, although sparse, are splendid, and are all the DVD package requires to make the purchase a recommended one.