Michael Douglas won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Gordon Gecko, and the film has come to be seen as the archetypal portrayal of 1980s excess, actually inspiring people to work on Wall Street!
The movie’s sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is to be released this month.
We follow junior stockbroker Bud fox (played by Charlie Sheen) who, in order to get ahead of the game, is desperate to work with his hero, Wall Street legend Gordon Gecko (played by Michael Douglas). Bud has an interview with Gekko, where, in order to impress, Bud leaks some inside information about the company his honest, blue-collar unionist father works for (played by Martin Sheen). Soon Bud has Gecko as a client. In order to keep and impress him however, Bud soon finds himself under Gecko’s unscrupulous wing, where 80’s excess effortlessly flows to him (including Daryl Hannah), as well of plenty of wackiness.
This movie is a perfect example of Hollywood in the 80’s: it is a high-concept cautionary morality play, with good and evil patriarchal figures tugging on Bud Fox’s soul, similar to Charlie Sheen’s role in Platoon.
The technical aspects and acting are all spot on. Director Oliver Stone wanted to shoot the trading floor as if he was swimming with sharks, incorporating a claustrophobic feel of fevered action. Tremendous work went into the authenticity of the stock-broking world, in terms of physical trading. Actual traders were brought in to coach actors on the set on how to hold phones, write out tickets, and talk to clients. Actor Charlie Sheen participated in a six-week course to study a cross section of young Wall Street business people, and Michael Douglas was given breathing lessons so that he may deliver his lines faster with ‘repressed anger’.
The movie has all of the hall-marks of a Tom Cruise vehicle; a young talented hot-head who has a crisis of confidence, resolves it, and saves the day; i.e. – an air force pilot / cocktail waiter/rally-car driver/lawyer/soldier/spy loses his confidence, gets it back and saves the day. Not surprisingly, Cruise was in fact Oliver Stone’s first choice for the role of Bud Fox, however Charlie Sheen was already confirmed to star as the character.
The DVD transfer is fine however it is the iconic 80’s suits, style and music that represent the excess off the 80’s while also making the lifestyle all the more attractive. It is very easy to understand why the Gordan-‘Greed-is-Good’- Gekko character is now a pin-up boy of capitalist America – a charming villain whose moral corruption is excused due to his financial success, a bit like Donald Trump in The Apprentice. Michael Douglas and the movie’s director Oliver Stone are still stopped in the street and thanked by traders for ‘inspiring’ them into getting them into the game!
Apparently the film’s bookend Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps has the Gecko character side-lined again with a young up-and-comer (played Shia LaBeouf ) which may be a shame, considering that audiences just want to see more of him. I would love to see a movie that fully explores the character, instead of having him as a one dimensional evil plotter, with it being simply titled Gecko, a la Rocky Balboa, Rambo and Hannibal. In a way, the excellent American Psycho did do this, exploring the yuppie 80’s male psyche albeit in a surreal, extremely darkly comedic way.
As much as I enjoy Wall Street , I still cannot excuse the extremely corny, “Who am I?” line delivered by Charlie Sheen while looking over the balcony after the essential 80’s montage that shows his rapidly growing wealth
4 OUT OF 5 TRADING BONDS
Luke McWilliams September 2010