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20th Century Fox presents
Wall Street (20th Anniversary Edition) (1987)

"Greed is good. Greed clarifies. Greed works."
- Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas)

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: September 24, 2007

Stars: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Martin Sheen
Other Stars: Hal Holbrook, Sean Young, John C. McGinley, Sylvia Miles, James Spader, Franklin Cover
Director: Oliver Stone

MPAA Rating: R
Run Time: 02h:05m:37s
Release Date: September 18, 2007
UPC: 024543440529
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-A-B+ B

DVD Review

It's not every DVD that comes festooned with its own pull quote, so the producers of this set have this reviewer's thanks—there's something a little weird, though, in Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko smiling at us impishly, like a good-natured, slick-backed urchin from a long ago time called the 1980s. Still, twenty years after the fact, Oliver Stone's followup to Platoon remains an arch morality play, if one very much of its time—Stone so wants to be our Arthur Miller, preaching at us about What's Right, but from our vantage he's sometimes undone by his ham-handedness, to say nothing of how cruel recent history has been to the fashion and interior design choices of the period. Stone isn't one for subtlety, that's for sure, and he goes at the world of high finance with all the same brio he brought to the Vietnam War.

His stand-in once again is Charlie Sheen, an ambitious and essentially good-hearted young man whose lust for wealth makes him lose his moral compass. Sheen plays Bud Fox, from a working-class family in Queens—he's saddled with debt from his NYU education, and is trying to get into the game with the big boys by cold calling residents of high-income ZIP codes, to try and peddle his warmed-over and underperforming stock tips. Bud dreams big, though, and has in his crosshairs one of Wall Street's Masters of the Universe: Gordon Gekko, who does deals, chews up and spits out companies, mounts hostile takeovers, and trolls for inside information before the rest of the street has even put on their yellow ties and red braces. In Bud, Gekko sees a younger version of himself: a guy crawling up only on ambition and smarts without the advantage of an Ivy League education and the connections that come with it (on some level it's kind of funny that these roles about hardscrabble sorts, whatever their morality, are both played by second-generation Hollywood actors). We come to understand mighty quickly, though, that Gekko is the Mephistopheles to Fox's Faust, and that the movie, essentially, is a battle for Bud's soul.

The forces of good are exemplified by Bud's father, played by Sheen's own father, Martin—he's a mechanic and union shop steward for a midsize airline, who knows the value of a dollar and the virtue of an honest day's work, but his employer gets put into play by his son as a proxy for Gekko. Bud has gone over to the dark side, and is going to take everything down with him. But it's going to be a hell of a ride, and it's filled with perks: coke, hookers, high-end restaurants, and a smashing piece of arm candy in Darryl Hannah, a decorator whose ambition far outpaces her taste. It's like at this point in his career Stone was still working out his Daddy issues—you even get a couple of father figures on the floor of Bud's firm, with Hal Holbrook as the oracle, and Franklin Cover as the cautionary tale.

The movie does brim with the energy of the period, though, and Stone's eye can be sharp—he's particularly fascinated with technological advancement, things that seem downright Mesozoic by our standard but that were wonders back in the day, like cellular telephones the size of a shoebox. He's also got a keen ear for the self-dramatization of these guys—when Gekko shouts out stuff like "This turkey is totally brain dead!" you can almost feel the little kid inside of him trying so desperately to be cool, and you sort of want to tell him to shut up. Douglas is of course fantastically iconic in the role—it's a part that borrows heavily from such conniving figures as Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken, men of vast ambition undone, in almost Shakespearean manner, by their own insatiable greed. Sheen's role is the more thankless one—it's almost like he's supposed to be our Everyman, but you watch him and you start to feel that there' s no there there. At one point, he's perched on the balcony of his Upper East Side apartment, tricked out with all the latest luxuries, and asks: "Who am I?" He's got no idea, and in some sense neither do we.

So aside from Douglas, then, other actors get to shine in much smaller roles. Terence Stamp is delicious as Gekko's chief rival, and Sylvia Miles is fantastically over the top as Bud's real estate agent. John C. McGinley can be a little forced as Bud's workplace pal, more eager to yuk it up than anything else, and James Spader is a sinewy crisis of conscience as an old friend of Bud's who gets ensnared in Gekko's web. This movie won't tell you exactly what the '80s were like, but it's fiercely moral and is happy to tell you so—it also knows about the power of the devil, without which he wouldn't be the devil, so think about that before you quote all of Gekko's best lines.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This was one of the earlier projects in the fruitful collaboration between Stone and cinematographer Robert Richardson, and the camera work, while sometimes overly self-conscious, is a valuable aspect of the storytelling—whenever things get particularly heated, for instance, Stone and Richardson switch to a handheld camera, giving the showdowns the feel of combat footage. It's a strong if sometimes overly dewy transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoSpanish, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
English (4.0 and 5.1)yes


Audio Transfer Review: The soundtrack is sometimes a little too jukeboxed with period music, but the transfer is generally pretty clean, whether you go with the 4.0 or the 5.1 track.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
14 Deleted Scenes
2 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Oliver Stone
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Stone deleted scenes commentary
Extras Review: Oliver Stone's commentary track is full of interesting info, though he seems to have recorded it in more than one sitting and not paid much mind to what he'd already said, so once you hit the halfway mark, he starts to repeat himself. But there's good stuff here—Richard Gere was his first choice for Gekko, and turned it down, as did Warren Beatty; after the heat of Platoon, Tom Cruise wanted to play Bud Fox, but Stone had already committed to Sheen. He's really good on discussing avoiding post-Oscar paralysis and wanting to jump right into this project, and on the films that influenced this one, including Executive Suite and Sweet Smell of Success. Much of the project seems like a therapeutic undertaking, as Stone dealt with issues with his own father, the inspiration for Holbrook's character; and he talks quite a bit about Sean Young, who plays Gekko's wife. Stone calls her the Cassandra of the project, but the stories he passes along makes her sound flat-out psycho—she thought that she should have been cast in Darryl Hannah's more prominent role, and never shut up about it.

Stone also provides a commentary track for the package (22m:37s) of 14 deleted scenes on the second disc—some are very brief, and nothing too galvanizing, but some nice bits, including Bud Fox living more of the high life, with no shortage of cocaine; Penn Jillette as a Fox mark; and the director himself doing repeated takes of his very brief cameo. He also provides an introduction (1m:01s) to Disc 2, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the film's release; the two accompanying documentaries have their share of redundancies, and also cover much of the same ground as Stone's commentary. Greed is Good (56m:32s) features Stone, Douglas, McGinley, Holbrook, and co-screenwriter Stanley Weiser, among others, and the theme here is vouching for the movie's authenticity—it even gets endorsed by some of the Bear, Stearns employees who served as character models. And Stone dominates Money Never Sleeps: The Making of Wall Street (47m:35s), though the most interesting stuff here may have to do with the onscreen dynamic between Charlie and Martin Sheen mirroring the offscreen one.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Oliver Stone at his most operatic and bombastic—it's become kind of a museum piece now, almost, but it's also kind of a great document of its time, the cinematic equivalent of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities.

 


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