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Wall Street (1987)

September 24, 2010

VERDICT:
7/10 Inside Men

It’s the ’80s in a nutshell and hardly anything’s changed. Except for synthesizers, no one likes synthesizers any more.

Wall Street is about a rookie stockbroker from a blue-collar family who spends his days cold-calling clients from a cubicle and his nights in a roach motel when he should be making the big bucks and livin’ in a deluxe apartment in the sky. Then one day he meets his idol – a cutthroat trader with money and morals to burn – he manages to make a damn fine first impression, gets taken under the guy’s wing and quickly finds himself neck-deep in the world of insider trading where the living is large and the risks could cost him everything.

So with the sequel coming out today and with our economy being so royally fucked the way it is, figured I’d give this one another visit and reflect on a period piece that could very well have been made today if it weren’t for all the weird shit that everyone thought was so damn cool over two decades ago.

It was written and directed by Oliver Stone at a time when I’m pretty sure he had the words “Head Pimp” under his name when he handed out business cards. Dude was winning Oscars left and right for Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, it’s no wonder he got so many Hollywood hotshots to sign on for this either. As a director, he does a good job, nothin’ fancy in terms of visuals and whatnot, just a lot of camera movement to make it seem like everyone on Wall Street is really busy all the time, which they are. But as a writer, he can do better.

You know how the story’s gonna end as soon as it starts and a lot of the same stuff keeps happening for a while without a whole lot of plot development to be had, but then again, I’m not sure if I should blame Stone or the decade for some of the problems with this script, because as much as the dialogue seems like it should be quotable, it more often than not had me thinking, “I can’t believe people used to say this crap.” The highlight of it all is the “Greed is good” speech because it’s pretty much what the whole movie is about and serves as an unsettling reminder of how easy it is to swindle folks into daming themselves when you’ve got a silver tongue to work with, but as much as I probably should have gushed over the “You want a friend? Get a dog,” line, it just doesn’t feel authentic. Should have felt more like Boiler Room than anything.

And Charlie Sheen ain’t bad as our innocent broker with money on his mind, Bud Fox (is it a rule on Wall Street to have ridiculous names like these?). He plays up the yuppie shtick pretty well, but he looks kinda ridiculous when he starts getting angry and it gets hard to take him seriously. Martin Sheen‘s also good as Bud’s dad, but he’s got the same problem. Daryl Hannah‘s there as Bud’s main squeeze/the worst interior designer of all-time (seriously, if I came home to find that my fiancee took the liberty of turning my place into a witch doctor’s S&M lair, we’d have a problem); the great Terence Stamp is there in a role far too minor for his badassness; James Spader is there as a smarmy lawyer (naturally); John C. McGinley is there and is annoying; Hal Holbrook is there as the stereoptypical wise old broker in Bud’s firm; and Sean Young is there too because she was in every single movie from 1980-1990.

But who am I kidding, this movie is all about Gordon Gekko and Michael Douglas totally runs away with it. From the slick hair to the suspenders to the big-ass cell phone to the blue button-down with mandatory white collar, it doesn’t take much to realize that this guy is most definitely scum on the first impression, but, damn, does he make scum look good. He’s Black Monday, Enron, Madoff and AIG all rolled into one, and as much as your conscience’ll tell ya’ that he’s bad news, this guy could serve you shit on a silver platter, tell you it’s filet, and you’d ask for seconds. It’s funny, he’s the personification of everything that’s always been wrong with this economy and how the richest 1% of the country gets away with owning half of its wealth, yet there’s something about him you can’t resist, and that’s goes back of Douglas. He oozes confidence, he knows he’s the man, and Douglas makes it look like he’s had ice running through those veins since his first day on the job. Man, what a bastard that Gekko is, but Douglas sure can play a good bastard.

If the trailers weren’t make the sequel look like it’s the exact same movie as this one (only with Shia LeBouf, because everybody just loooves Shia-effing-LeBouf), I think Stone might have something, but whether it works or not, Wall Street is, unfortunately, turning out to be an timeless movie. It’s almost frightening how pertinent this thing is 23 years after the fact, and even though I’m glad I now live in a world where women don’t stuff shoulder pads into their suits, it’s beyond fucked up that corporate greed is more rampant now than ever. Such is the power of unquenchable greed and the way those responsible are allowed to get away with it, I suppose. At least some of ’em are doing time.

Freakin’ yuppies…

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 24, 2010 6:28 am

    7 seems fair enough. there is a lot of macho hammy bullshit in this film. and Daryl Hannah just cannot act in it. Surely Stone knew that by giving Gekko all the best lines he would be responsible for the financial meltdown 20 years later

    • September 24, 2010 11:06 am

      Yeah, she really didn’t add much to anything here, also find it strange that her whole past relationship with Gekko never came to a head with Bud. And don’t you worry, man, the people will rise up and give Stone his comeuppance any day now…

    • September 25, 2010 11:19 pm

      @Ross – That’s what the focus of “Money Never Sleeps” is about. They don’t directly point the finger at Gekko for the housing meltdown, but Oliver Stone sure does. It’s hot.

  2. September 24, 2010 10:31 pm

    I appreciate Douglas’s work in creating the performance, but that’s about it. I don’t like Wall Street at all.

  3. September 25, 2010 11:18 pm

    Good review. But……..I think this is Stone’s masterpiece and one of the best films of the 80’s. Michael Douglas kicks ass. Nough said.

    But I did reluctantly enjoy your write-up.

    • September 27, 2010 12:45 pm

      haha. thanks, man. about time I started watching more stuff by Stone anyway, this epic comment might just be the boost I need.

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