Wall Street [DVD]
Director : Oliver Stone
Screenplay : Stanley Weiser & Oliver Stone
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 1987
Stars : Charlie Sheen (Bud Fox), Michael Douglas (Gordon Gekko), Martin Sheen (Carl Fox), Daryl Hannah (Darien Taylor), Terence Stamp (Sir Larry Wildman), Sean Young (Kate Gekko), Sylvia Miles (Realtor), James Spader (Roger Barnes), Hal Holbrook (Lou Mannheim), Saul Rubinek (Harold Salt)
Given that Oliver Stone made Wall Street directly on the heels of winning the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars for Platoon (1986), it is not surprising that the two films are quite similar thematically, so much so that they make intriguing companion pieces despite their obvious differences. Both star Charlie Sheen as an idealistic young man who learns hard truths about life from two conflicting father figures. In Platoon, he learns truths in the steamy jungles of Southeast Asia; in Wall Street, his lessons are taught in the concrete jungle of New York City. In Platoon, his father figures are dueling sergeants fighting for control of his platoon in Vietnam. In Wall Street, he is torn between his real father (Martin Sheen), an honest, blue-collar plane mechanic and union leader, and his surrogate father figure, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), a take-no-prisoners corporate raider.
Douglas's Oscar-winning performance is a powerhouse of controlled aggression and vindictive cunning. Gekko, who rose from a city-college education to being one of the richest men in America, has no limits to his greed or willingness to bend ethical principles and the law to advance his goal of accumulating more money. Stone, whose father was a Wall Street broker, uses Gekko's power, wealth, and influence as the temptation in a modern-day morality play. Gekko has it all, but it's never enough. His is a game that can never be won because there is never a finish line to cross, only more to accumulate.
Sheen plays Bud Fox, who at the beginning of the film is a low-level trader with a huge trading firm, earning decent money making cold calls and investing for others, but never fulfilling his most ardent desires to make it to the big time. When his level-headed father, Carl (Martin Sheen), suggests that he may be going about life the wrong way, Bud replies, “There's no nobility in poverty anymore, Dad.” Perhaps, but as the film eventually makes clear, there is no nobility in becoming rich by exploiting others, either.
Bud manages to work his way into Gekko's private circle, and the money comes pouring in. Soon, he is moving into an upscale penthouse and dating a beautiful interior designer (Daryl Hannah). He sees Gekko's world from the inside, and from the very start he knows that Gekko has built his empire on illegal insider trading and scare tactics. There are no illusions--Bud knows exactly what he's getting into, and he plunges right ahead, perhaps believing that he can somehow make good on it in the end. His idealism deludes him into believing that it's the end that matters, not the means.
Thus, when he convinces Gekko to help him buy out his father's struggling employer, Blue Star Airlines, in order to turn it around and make it profitable again, there is the real sense that Bud wants to do something positive with his newly acquired wealth and influence. His father is skeptical; he sees right through Gekko's rhetoric and sees that he is a shark who is just in it for the money, not to turn the company around and involve the workers. But, Bud doesn't see this because he's clouded by the possibilities; he's too taken with his own success to see the big picture. Thus, when it all comes crashing down, it is a true shock to him, if not to us.
Wall Street is something of a throwback to the business films of the 1950s (Stone has cited 1954's Executive Suite and 1957's Sweet Smell of Success as inspiration). The film certainly offers universal human truths about business dealings, yet it is also clearly a product of its time. Stylistically, Wall Street is very much a part of the late 1980s--tortoise-shell glasses, yellow power ties, big cell phones, slicked hair. It is a fast-paced, absorbing film that makes complicated business dealings understandable to the uninformed, yet still intriguing. The screenplay by Stone and Stanley Weiser is smart and lean, and Stone's direction is solid and confident without being overly flashy. His limited use of fast zooms, rapid edits, and canted camera angles foretell of the more extreme stylistic decisions that would come into play in his later films like JFK (1991), Natural Born Killers (1994), and Any Given Sunday (1999), while his soft spot for family dynamics clearly portends the sentimentality of World Trade Center (2006).
There is rarely a boring moment in Wall Street, and although its tone tends to get a bit didactic near the end, it never feels overly moralistic. Stone grounds his morality play in the day-to-day workings of everyday life, whether that be the hustle and bustle of Bud's trading company or meetings with his father at a smoke-filled pub in Queens. Stone gets the small moments just right, especially the scenes between Martin Sheen and Charlie Sheen as father and son, which play nicely into the larger whole. Wall Street is remembered mainly as a film that exposed the ugly underbelly of the greed-is-good corporate world of the 1980s, but it is also very much a human story about a father and son finally coming to understand each other.
|Wall Street 20th Anniversary Edition DVD|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||September 18, 2007|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|This is Wall Street's second time around the block on DVD, and for its 20th anniversary it has been given a new anamorphic transfer that is a significant improvement over the previously available disc, which was soft, grainy, and dull. The new transfer is much sharper, with better detail and a smoother look (the print used for the transfer also appears to have been in much better shape, as there is significantly less dirt and signs of age). Colors are also much improved, with more vibrant hues that bring out the go-go world of 1980s high finance. The audio options include a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround remix and the original four-channel mix in Dolby Digital. The film certainly shows that it is a product of the late 1980s with its dated musical score, but the new surround mix injects it with life. Dialogue is also clear and crisp, and when the surrounds are put into use the imaging is smooth and effective. The soundtrack also sounds clean, with no hiss or distortion of any kind.|
|Several of the supplements included in this two-disc 20th anniversary edition have been ported over from the old disc, while several others are new to this edition. From the old disc we get Oliver Stone's intriguing audio commentary, which shows what a personal film Wall Street was for him, as both the highly anticipated follow-up to Platoon and as a vehicle that is very much centered on his relationship with his own father, whose various personality traits are embedded in many of the male authority figures. Another repeat is Money Never Sleeps, a 45-minute retrospective documentary by Charles Kiselyak. It features interviews with all the principles, including Stone, Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, and Michael Douglas. The interviews are in-depth and very interesting, much more than the usual featurette interviews that are mostly back-slapping about how great everyone was to work with. Douglas talks about how Stone pushed him to be a better actor, and Martin Sheen notes numerous times how hard Stone came down on him when he tried to alter his lines. The documentary is padded out with a lot of clips from the movie and a few brief snippets of behind-the-scenes footage. |
New this time around is a brief introduction by Oliver Stone that kicks off the second disc. There is also the new 56-minute documentary Greed is Good, which goes in-depth into the world of high finance and how well the film reflects the realities of the business world. It features interviews with Stone, screenwriter Stanley Weiser, and actors Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, John McGinley, and Hal Holbrook, as well as numerous real-life Wall Street traders, investors, and corporate CEOs who offer their own in-the-trenches view of the film's subject. Also new to this disc are 22 minutes of deleted scenes (in anamorphic widescreen) with optional commentary by Oliver Stone. Some of these scenes are extended parts of scenes already in the film, while others are completely new, including several bits with a cameo by Penn Jillette. While it is great to get to see this footage that was left on the cutting room floor, it is all encoded as one piece so you can't select an individual scene to watch.
Copyright ©2007 James Kendrick
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