Eye For Film >> Movies >> Wall Street (1987) Film Review
Reviewed by: Stephen Carty
During 2000’s highly-underrated high-pressure sales’ ‘thriller’ Boiler Room, the characters act like they’re the brokers from Wall Street. In their spare time they watch the movie together. They recite the dialogue verbatim. Hell, they even shush each other when Michael Douglas is about to enter a scene (not just when he’s speaking, when he’s ABOUT to come on). Having bizarrely inspired countless stockbrokers to take up the profession, this is the impact that Oliver Stone’s seminal take-no-prisoners expose has had since it DK’d us out of nowhere.
Desperate to succeed, ambitious young stock market trader Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) persists until he gets a meeting with high-flying corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Though his initial sales pitch fails, insider information on the airline where his Dad (Martin Sheen) works persuades Gekko to give him a chance and it soon leads to big bucks and an extravagant lifestyle. However, Buddy soon learns it all comes with a price…
Following the Oscar-winning success of Platoon, the controversial director might have merely swapped the jungle of Vietnam for the concrete jungle of Manhattan, but there’s new ground to be covered. Yes, it’s still primarily a morality tale where the theme of loyalty looms large, but which also skewers the materialistic Eighties and the yuppie, money-obsessed brace-wearing capitalists who dominated it.
Inspired by his father’s 34 years on Wall Street, Stone’s incredible attention to detail (filming on the NY Stock exchange, using offices instead of sets, hiring ex-parters as advisors) gives us an insider’s view yet to be bettered. Sure, the broker-speak is often confusing, but you’ll get the gist of what is going on. Surprisingly, there’s none of the controversial director’s trademark over-style, just an energy during the wheeling and dealing to illustrate – get this – sharks in a feeding frenzy.
Which brings us to the picture’s undoubted highlight – Michael Douglas. Stealing virtually every scene he’s in with quotable zingers, Douglas’ slick-haired, fast-talking stock-as-war mogul might be the ‘villain’ of the piece, but he oozes so much seductive charm that you – like Buddy – will find yourself drawn into his web. As for Charlie Sheen, he’s fresh-faced and pulls off the transition from determined nobody to corrupted mini-Gekko with credibility. While Daryl Hannah is admittedly miscast, there’s great support from John C McGinley, Terence Stamp and James Spader.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be an Oliver Stone movie without father-son issues. Whilst GG tempts go-getter Buddy with fast-money, expensive living and a mobile phone the size of your forearm, on the other side his moralistic father (played perfectly by Sheen’s wonderful real-life Dad Martin) argues for hard work and senior broker Lou (played with subtle class by Hal Holbrook) advises against short-cuts. From start to finish it’s rarely unpredictable and though the ending is a tad flat, but Stewart Copeland’s synthy-score adds energy and heart.
Compelling, detailed and rendering the Eighties stock-market scene flawlessly, Wall Street has so many qualities you’ll feel greedy. But don’t worry, apparently, greed is good.Reviewed on: 08 Feb 2010