Review: Wall Street (1987)


Director: Oliver Stone | 121 minutes | drama, crime | Actors: Michael Douglas, Terrence Stamp, Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, Tamara Tunie, Franklin Cover, Chuck Pfeiffer, John C. McGinley, Hal Holbrook, James Karen, Leslie Lyles, Daryl Hannah, Frank Adonis, John Capodice, François Giroday, Josh Mostell, Ann Talman, Lisa Zebro, Sean Young, Jack Pruett, James Spader

If you think the business world is made up of a boring bunch of stock traders and gray mice, then you are wrong. Business is war and businessman Gordon Gekko is emperor and general in one. Director Oliver Stone is not known for his nuanced films anyway, but in “Wall Street” he goes a step further. Traders at the top are unscrupulous monsters, everyone. Stone’s bleak, one-sided look at a tricky phenomenon like the IPO may not produce an objective film, but that doesn’t matter. “Wall Street” is a classic

“Wall Street” introduces you to Bud Fox (Sheen). The young dog is ambitious and hopes to quickly exchange his boring life as a sales manager for a more exciting existence. Fox would like to live a life like stock market king Gordon Gekko (Douglas). When our hero manages to land a job with his great idol after some insistence, his life changes instantly. Fox gets rich in no time and finds a beautiful girlfriend (Hannah). Fox’s conscience begins to gnaw when he learns that Gekko has rather underhanded methods. The stock market guru buys and sells all kinds of companies, lets them go bankrupt and collects hard dollars for his investments. Gekko’s method ensures that countless people become unemployed, while Gekko’s pockets are getting fuller. Fox is confronted with the facts when it turns out that the company where his father works (Sheen Sr.) is in dire straits due to Gekko’s practices. Does Fox opt for the big bucks or for his conscience?

Stone makes no mistake about it. Gekko is a villain, the personification of “The American Dream Gone Bad”. Making money is the greatest ideal of the capitalist West and businessmen are about to reach their goal. The little man is the victim of the money craze called Wall Street. The film presents you with a black and white version of reality, there are only villains and heroes in this story. Grayscale does not exist.

If you are familiar with Stone’s work, you will have encountered the somewhat narrow-minded version of the man before in films like “Natural Born Killers” and “The Doors” where the sensationalist media and a self-centered drug-using rock band respectively had to believe it. Regardless of your opinion of Stone’s depiction of reality, the filmmaker always has something to say about the world in which he lives. His beloved native America is also not spared Stone’s political views. In addition to a sharp opinion, the director also has a good sense of drama. His work is characterized by flashy editing and strong castings. Just about every actor or actress who matters in Hollywood has been in front of Stone’s camera. This is also the case in “Wall Street”.

The great strength of this film is the phenomenal acting of Michael Douglas. The gray actor portrays an unforgettable character. Douglas’ Gekko is a tough, chilly businessman full of charisma. Gordon Gekko is actually larger than life: the man only talks in one liners and his emotional life consists only of greed and pent-up anger. A less gifted actor had seen nothing more than a character in Gekko, a caricature. Douglas manages to completely camouflage the limited content of his character through his playing. No one can do cheesy one liners like “Lunch is for fags” and “Greed is good. Greed works. Greed explains, illuminates and encompasses our evolution “getting out of his or her mouth as impressively as Mr. Douglas. The great thing is that Gekko deals with witty statements, so you can expect a lot of grotesque quotes. Douglas keeps the film going because of his strong performance. As a result, most of the cast is completely snowed under by their game. Especially the young ones have to suffer. Charlie Sheen’s lead role is far too boring and even too tame. When the young actor stands next to acting cannons like Douglas and Stamp, he is completely wiped out. Only when Sheen faces his father, Martin Sheen, does he flourish. Daryl Hannah also does not stand out. It is precisely the experienced hands who still offer Douglas some resistance. Stamp’s supercooled game versus Douglas’s swirling style makes for some unforgettable scenes. The passages with Martin Sheen are also exciting and sparkling.

What is a shame is that Stone has used a fairly standard narrative structure. The Rockyesque story of the underdog who reaches the top has been chewed out. The moralistic undertone that preaches about honesty is also sometimes emphasized come forward. But don’t let that stop you from seeing “Wall Street.” Stone manages to portray seemingly boring stuff like the IPO in a compelling way. In addition, this production is only worth checking out for the Oscar-winning role of Douglas.

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