Wall Street Review
In December of 2007, only two months after the famous October '87 stock market crash, Oliver Stone brought his own version of events of the New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street. 18 months in the making he left behind the woes of the Vietnamese jungle for a jungle of a different kind; the concrete jungle of business and high finance, in the process taking Charlie Sheen and John McGinley with him.
It's the mid to late eighties, yuppiedom is at its height, the moral of the story is not how to benefit society as a whole but how to make that fast buck, how to become a millionaire by the time you're 30 and how to accumulate yet more wealth on top of that. Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) and Marvin (John McGinley) are brokers at a long established conservative brokerage cold-calling to get their daily bread. It's Bud's ambition though to emulate his idol, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas); a ruthless financial astute businessman who buys and sells stocks, and people lives, as though they were some characters in a card trading game.
Eventually Bud manages to meet GG with the lure of some fine Cuban cigars. GG's impressed with his tenacity and offers him a way in to his empire; all he need provide is information that GG cannot get through his usual devious circles. Information is provided on the company Bud's dad, Carl (Martin Sheen) works for. From this point on Bud has no way back the continuing allure of wealth and power drives him onwards and upwards until he perhaps finally realises that GG's techniques are neither legal nor in fact moral.
Coming on the back of the crash of '87 was, certainly for Stone and this picture, fortuitous luck. Stocks were in the headlines; there had not been a film about big business for some time, so certainly the audience seemed primed and ripe for this release. Stone himself has always enjoyed taking a swipe at governmental or corporate America, look to Salvador and Platoon for examples. Here he turns his attentions to the lack of responsibility and self culture created by the capitalist forces in the eighties; and what a swipe it is.
He balances the personal need for career progression in any desired industry against the personal and cultural harm these selfish actions can take if extended to their logical progression. Gekko climbed to the top of this greasy pole through sheer hard work, there's not doubt about that. Somewhere along the line though sheer greed took over and the accumulation of wealth and power came at the expense of those less fortunate or less ruthless than him.
Stone's father worked on Wall Street and this he says is ultimately an homage to him. He was a conservative man understanding the need for the working class of America to have a say in the companies which ultimately controlled their destinies. This is represented here by the company Bud initially starts working at, a long serving brokerage which understands the need for steady growth over the fast buck. The understanding that profits will be made in the long term through Bull and Bear markets, the understanding that rapid accumulation of capital usually indicates something's not quite right.
Casting is excellent, with all parties fulfilling their roles perfectly. Douglas of course receiving his Oscar for probably the speech in the middle where he glorifies the nature of greed, what it can do for the individual and what it can do for America as a whole. What he doesn't understand, acknowledge or portray to his audience at the time, is that for every rapid winner there's many rapid losers. Good old Martin Sheen covers this aspect of the film, staunch liberal and prepared to stand up for peoples rights he was the perfect choice as the union official at Blue Star airlines, the company which Bud helps Gekko take over. Sheen here represents the workingman, the person who is ultimately at the mercy of corporate greed. All too often he has seen companies ruined or pensions plundered as the capitalist machine moves in.
Sundry characters including those played by John McGinley, Daryl Hannah, Sean Young and particularly Terrance Stamp come over well enough. McGinley playing a trader with braces broker whom you know will struggle through his chosen career whist not exactly fanning any flames. Hannah and Young play the ex girlfriend and wife respectively of Gekko and both look just a little too haggard here for my liking. Even the parts they play, much like the multitudes of people around them, have no depth of character, both being attracted to the confident Gekko like moths to a flame. Stamp plays his part well, as a competitor to Gekko; his character might have some sense of soul but I doubt it.
Wall Street then provides a brief view on the window of eighties capitalism, non-caring, self indulgent and destructive to others in the periphery. Like most of Stones others works you'll either agree with his political slant on this or you wont. Even if you don't there's still Gekko to look up and aspire to. Very much recommended.