Written by Senora Bicho
Greed is good and still alive and well in the United States. We are in a very interesting time in the history of our country. Today is all about instant gratification. Planning and saving for something you want is a thing of the past. Our country is in overwhelming debt, we have a housing market and mortgage crisis, and the U.S. dollar is losing value rapidly. Wall Street can be considered the perfect movie to highlight the excesses of the 1980s but with all of these issues facing us now, twenty years later, the movie is even more relevant and an important statement on the decisions facing young professionals.
I enjoyed Wall Street when it originally came out but it didn’t resonate as much as it does for me today. Over the course of my career I have worked with many powerful men. Some whom I still have tremendous respect for and some who just barely avoided jail. What is interesting about the Gordon Gekkos that I have run across is that they are so crazy with power that they don’t realize who they have become. They surround themselves with yes men and don’t see their downfall until it is too late. The role of Gordon Gekko, played so masterfully by Michael Douglas, which earned an Academy Award for his performance, hits on all cylinders and is a perfect representation of the corrupt businessman.
The story of Wall Street is about the rise and fall of Bud Fox played by Charlie Sheen, who does a great job conveying the naivety of the character and the quick desire for greatness and success that face young people starting their careers. Fox is a stockbroker stuck in the rat race. The film opens with him crammed in an elevator with all of the other rats. He is a nameless broker stuck in a cube maze who is determined to make it big. In order to achieve his goals he sets his sights on bagging Gordon Gekko as a client and therefore calls his office everyday for 59 days. On Gekko’s birthday Fox brings him a box of cigars and scores a few minutes in his office. Fox quickly learns that information is the only commodity Gekko is interested in and shares some insider information that Fox has learned about his father’s airline. This does the trick and earns him a chance.
Bud’s lifestyle changes as money, women, drugs, and entry into all of the New York hot spots are instantly thrown at him. It is easy to see why Fox would be so attracted to this lifestyle even at the price he has to pay for it. While Gekko is having a huge influence on him, there are two good influences in his life trying to steer him back to the right side of the law. His father, Carl Fox, played by his real-life father Martin Sheen, and a co-worker, Lou Mannheim, played by Hal Holbrook. Both of them are philosophers of sorts and provide Fox with pearls of wisdom. Both are wonderful in their roles, however, they do not compare to Gekko’s god-like magnetism. Carl sees through Gekko right from the beginning but Bud must see it for himself. The moment when Fox realizes what Gekko is really all about is very powerful and you can feel his disappointment in the person he looked up to the most. Fox’s decline is just a rapid as his rise. He loses the girl, his fancy apartment and ends up arrested but not before he saves his fathers airline and sets up Gekko for his downfall.
You can’t discuss Wall Street without mentioning the signature “Greed is Good” speech. Douglas has many great moments in the film but this scene is the high point for his character. The fundamentals of this speech are right on. Companies too often are poorly run with too many executives getting paid huge salaries that exceed their contributions to the bottom line. Gekko’s ideas on reforming these organizations are on target. His thoughts on greed being good are also accurate. Greed helps move a society forward. The desire to achieve more and to not be complacent is necessary. Where Gekko goes wrong is that his success becomes never enough. He needs more and more money and fame. He needs to win at any cost and doesn’t realize that he has become the bad guy.
Wall Street was Oliver Stone at his best. His directing is impeccable and he sets up the characters visually and emotionally. For example, the audience is first introduced to Gekko with his voice in the background and a brief peek of his face as many important men are being ushered into his office. Lighting, facial expressions, and camera work help enhance the story and draw the viewer into the film. The movie is also fun to watch for the technology of the time. The computer, cordless phone, watchman, and other high tech gadgets are a kick to see.
There is only one new feature on this DVD release: the “Greed is Good” featurette. This is very well done and worth watching. It has Stone, Douglas, Sheen, and many of the other co-stars discussing the film today. One fascinating comment made by Douglas is that many people even still come up to him and say that Gekko is their role model and is who their career is based on. Pretty scary but considering who we have in the White House these days not entirely surprising. Another interesting perspective provided is from the floor traders and stockbrokers who originally consulted on the movie. The recycled items included are an audio commentary from Stone, deleted scenes, and a making of documentary.
The 20th Anniversary Edition of Wall Street is now available and is a must-have for any film aficionado collection. If you already own a previous release, you should rent this one just to watch the new documentary.