Synopsis: Tired of the view from his one-bedroom apartment, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) dreams of the luxury and power at the pinnacle of Wall Street investment banking. Charming his way into the tutelage of Gordon Gekko (Douglas in an Academy Award-Winning performance), the best of the best, Fox is soon rubbing shoulders with “friends” in the highest places. But in a world that values high-risk greed over low-yield ethics, Fox will soon find himself in a most precarious position… one that will pit him against his mentor in a winner-takes-all contest that neither can afford to lose!
Wall Street 8.0
Whether you like it or not, “Wall Street” is a classic. Michael Douglas’ performance alone made it a standout. Still, this tour-de-force combined with the script’s incisive look at the yuppie mentality and America’s out-of-control obsession with profit at any cost, made the film a landmark portrait of an era.
The message is still strong today, and it explains the allure of a sequel, as evidenced by the commercial success of “Wall Street 2” this autumn. But it’s surprising to see how fans are divided into two camps: there are those who adore its critique of the American “success story” and there are those who see it as a blueprint to success.
In fact, that is exactly what has irked Michael Douglas. He says that he meets at least one fan of this film a day, and has come to realize that all too many people revere his iconic character. Bemused, he doesn’t understand how a heartless villain of such proportions could ever become popular – but that’s like asking why Darth Vader has become the centrepiece character in the Star Wars trilogy.
(obvious answer: because, sometimes, “bad” is considered cool )
Has the movie, in its quest to comment on our social mores, actually exacerbated matters? Possibly. In fact, that might have been part of the motivation for Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas to revisit this world and its characters a second time: Stone truly believes that the markets are even more cutthroat than they ever were, and that they should never have gone down that route – especially after the warning he tried give back then.
One can imagine how hard it must have hit at the time: ‘Wall Street’ remains exceptionally potent to this day. It is dated, however: it’s a smidge formulaic in its construction, it has a cheesy ’80s love scene (cast in blue lighting, no less! ) and it’s rather simplistic in its resolution – in a Michael J. Fox sort of way (with all due respect to MJF! ).
As well, while Douglas is killer, the film isn’t necessarily populated by equally capable actors: Daryl Hannah offers a severely wooden performance (although it is said that she thoroughly disliked the role, so this must have influenced her delivery), and only an average one from Charlie Sheen – who isn’t exactly “Lawrence Olivier” in the first place.
However, his father, Martin Sheen (who ironically plays Charlie Sheen’s character’s father), lends much-needed gravitas to the screen. In fact, if not for Douglas’ powerful performance, I have no doubt that Sheen would have been acclaimed by critics. Also worth noting is Hal Holbrook’s rock-solid second banana, who also assists rather ably.
Despite inching on 25 years of age, this film is still a standout. Its material, heftily supported by some terrific performances, still rings true today; it helped define an era and is certainly one of the ’80s greatest cinematic achievements. Sadly, the sequel eschews its sharp edge in return for a blunt instrument.