Wall Street (1987)
Gordon Gekko's The F Word
The most valuable commodity I know of is information - Gordon Gekko
Having just won an Oscar for Vietnam epic "Platoon" Oliver Stone entered the world of warfare once more, although a war which is more apparent to your average guy on the street with "Wall Street". A now iconic movie which took us into the heady and corrupt world of finance and the greed culture of the 80s where young men became yuppies as they tried to find a short cut to getting rich, "Wall Street" is a marvellous movie which even now 20 plus years later is still as captivating, entertaining and thrilling as when it hit the big screen in the midst of the financial boom that it probed.
In "Wall Street" Charlie Sheen (Red Dawn) stars as enthusiastic young broker Bud Fox who wants to escape his crowded office for a lucrative job working alongside Wall Street legend Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas - Fatal Attraction). When he finally gets his opportunity Gekko takes young Bud under his wing teaching him that 'Greed is Good' and encouraging him to participate in the shady world of illegal inside information. But Bud soon discovers that his pursuit of instant wealth may not be as worth it as he once believed.
What really stands out about "Wall Street" is that it all seems so real, nothing feels faked even those characters whose exuberance for instant wealth and selling may feel like a caricature. Much of which is not so much to do with the storyline but that Oliver Stone chose to shoot "Wall Street" in those offices and financial institutions delivering that reality, that frenetic pace and energy of the world of high finance. But it's also that you don't need to have any idea about stock, bonds and any other financial terms which are spouted because "Wall Street" is all about instant money, greed, respect and integrity making it play as a stunning drama for your average guy on the street.
"Wall Street" truly is a wonderfully multi layered storyline with the rollercoaster ride of Bud Fox and his meteoric rise into riches being the central focus. What is noticeable, and I will say it again, it's also real. Remembering those 80s when young men and women would try to find a quick route to the top in the world of finance nothing in "Wall Street" feels out of place as it demonstrates that yuppie culture. But it is also the idolization of Gordon Gekko the willingness to do what he is told despite knowing better and the ignoring others advice which makes it so compelling. Even if you haven't been in the world of finance that element of being so wrapped up in someone that you shun everyone else still communicates, sort of mirroring a youthful romance. It all works and from the outside you can see that Bud Fox, who just wants to escape the hustle & flow of a busy office cold calling and peddling penny stocks, is going wrong but you sympathise for him because we've often had that same feeling.
But away from that central storyline "Wall Street" is also a movie with a semi moralistic message, one about integrity and that money is not always the be all and everything. It's a nice counter storyline to that main one and along with issues over trust and working hard to actually achieve something rather than just trying to find the quick route speaks volumes to all who idolize the get rich quick mentality. The great thing about it is as whilst some movies might go for a sugar coated climax, a fake happy ever after ending, Oliver Stone doesn't shun away from reality even if there is integrity to actions.
All of this makes "Wall Street" a compelling movie that draws you into the story from start to finish. But it's made all the more better by a trio of stunning performances from Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen and Martin Sheen. Gordon Gekko must be one of Michael Douglas's proudest performances, he has created a true villain so lacking in moral respect that you half expect he would sell out his own mother is it meant more money. But then whilst he is also the villain he is also charismatic you get sort of hypnotized by this financial god even if he does stoop to illegal insider trading. When he quotes Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" you can't but help be impressed how this man tackles business.
Opposite Michael Douglas is Charlie Sheen who as Bud Fox epitomises everything about the upwardly mobile young men of the 80s and delivers a performance that in many ways is similar to a young enthusiastic Tom Cruise, which is quite ironic seeing that Cruise was originally wanted to play Bud. It's another memorable performance which goes from idolizing money through to the realization that money is not so important when it affects your integrity. Sheen delivers the emotions of his character brilliantly, the puppy like following of Gordon Gekko to the humbling when he realises that Gekko is not the friend he thought he was.
Plus there is Charlie Sheen's father Martin who ironically plays Carl Fox, Bud's father in the movie. Being the exact opposite of Bud and Gordon Gekko he delivers the movies integrity, the workman like character who appreciates that working hard and creating something worthwhile is more important than instant riches. It's a great performance and counter balances the more exuberant performance of Douglas being more in tune with someone who finds happiness without the need for riches.
Add to this some equally great supporting performances from the likes of Hal Holbrook, James Spader, John C. McGinley and James Karen as the sly Lynch. Although Daryl Hannah as love interest and interior designer Darien Taylor is a mistake because other adding some beauty her performance is not strong enough, not to mention some dubious decorating skills.
What this boils down to is that "Wall Street" is still a great movie which highlights that get rich mentality of the 80s but is still as prevalent today as it was then. With a multi layered storyline and a mesmerising performance from Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, plus the equally good performances from Charlie Sheen and his father Martin it is one of the iconic movies from the 80s which is still as compelling now as it was then.
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