Archive for December 11, 1987

Wall Street

December 11, 1987

“Greed … is good,” intones corporate raider extraordinaire Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas); “greed works.” Oliver Stone’s kaleidoscopic melodrama, about an ambitious young Wall Street trader named Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) who gets it all and loses it all, moves at the speed of light, the camera lunging through chaotic offices like a shark. Gekko, Bud’s idol and mentor, was the dirtiest movie Mephistopheles in years, and Douglas’ juicy, fevered performance deservedly won him an Oscar. (It was here, really, that Douglas began his tenure as the Sin Eater of Hollywood actors, embodying the rancor and decay of the white man.) Sheen is less captivating, serving the same basic function he did in Platoon — fresh-faced kid hardened by bitter experience, torn between two father figures, a false one and a benevolent one. (His father Martin, who plays his working-class screen dad, shows him up in every scene they share.)

Perhaps the ending — with Bud renouncing materialism/capitalism forever and opting for a simpler life — is a tad too easy (morality fables of the ’80s were big on the redemption thing, rejuvenating the old trick of dazzling the audience with amorality and glitz and then flattering them by having the hero choose a humble life closer to that of the audience). But Stone has a fine time puncturing the corporate ethos, and he has the good sense not to insult our intelligence — he assumes we’ll keep up with him. Thirteen years later, the movie became an unlikely pop-cultural touchstone for the baby sharks in Boiler Room, who watched the video endlessly, committing it to memory while somehow completely missing its point. I’ve sometimes wondered what Stone thought of Boiler Room.