126 Min. | Crime – Drama | December 1987
IMDB Rating: 7.4
Director: Oliver Stone
Staring: Charlie Sheen, Michael Douglas, Tamara Tunie
Wall Street Review: With his diabolical charm, slicked-back hair, city-college chip on his shoulder, and era-defining “greed-is-good” mantra, Gordon Gekko may by one of the all-time great film roles. Michael Douglas’s performance as Gekko won a deserved Oscar in 1988 and makes “Wall Street” required viewing. There are two schools of thought when it comes to money. Some economists argue money is an expanding resource, and prosperity a rising tide that lifts all boats. For Gekko, the truth is simpler and more brutal, the rich get richer off the backs of everyone else. “Money itself isn’t lost or made, it’s simply transferred,” he tells his young protege Bud Fox. No question writer-director Oliver Stone feels the same way, as he presents this tale of wealth acquisition at its very apex, lower Manhattan circa 1985. In practically every frame showcasing the opulent world Gekko travels can be glimpsed beggars, fishermen, window washers, people who never will have access to the white-collar lifestyles their lowly status perversely enables for others.
For some, this zero-sum take of America clouds their enjoyment of “Wall Street” the movie. It shouldn’t. You don’t have to buy Shakespeare’s version of history in “Richard III” to enjoy the morally bankrupt character at its center, and you don’t need to adopt Stone’s philosophy to enjoy Gekko. In fact Stone’s attitude about the Street, presented here as a kind of Hogarth caricature, helps make Wall Street so entertaining. He captures the scenes of floor trading and calls and puts in journalistic detail, but leaves room for the human equation. And he has fun, a lot of fun, especially with Gekko, a character who makes you laugh with his pithy comments even as he sets about using poor Fox as a human ashtray. On an upcoming charity event for the Bronx Zoo, “That’s the thing about WASPs. They hate people, but they love animals.” “If he was in the funeral business, no one would ever die!” “You had what it took to get into my office, sport, the question is do you have what it takes to stay.”
Sheen is also masterful in his role, playing the naive waif who wants to swim with the sharks and thus giving Douglas daylight to run. Too bad there’s a tacked-on romance that never really works, in part because the character of Darien Taylor is not well developed, in part because Darryl Hannah hadn’t yet met Quentin Tarantino. The ending is a bit too neat, and loses the subtlety that makes the rest of the film so good. But the heck with subtlety when you have Gordon Gekko. Douglas is the reason for watching “Wall Street,” and a terrific one. Just watch the way he looks at Bud, eyebrows raised to hold a pregnant silence, or enjoys the discomfort of his arbitrager-rival Sir Larry (a solid Terence Stamp). Stone knew what he had here, and makes the most of it. As a twisted morality tale, “Wall Street” is a thrilling, scenic ride down a dark and dangerous road.