With the current economic crisis in the United States, the sequel to Oliver Stone’s white collar drama Wall Street seems like an apt idea. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (more easily known as ‘Wall Street 2′) is coming soon, but has the original motion picture stood the test of time to deserve another outing at the box office? If the current economy was in better shape, then I may have reservations. However, recent concern over the United States economy means a sequel is not only justified, but very intriguing. In light of this, I have decided to review the 1988 original on DVD to see whether this franchise is worth a look.
Wall Street follows Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), a young man working for a firm in lower Manhattan. Bud is a lowly broker, whose job is to contact clients and advise them on good investments in the stock market. Despite having a blue collar Father (Martin Sheen) and being surrounded by competing brokers at his firm, Bud wants to make it big. He wants to become a real player like Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas).
Gekko makes his living off investing and selling stocks in companies as they rise to fortune, or fall into the abyss. Bud desperately wants to advise him on some investment ideas, but is consistently rejected by Gekko’s secretary. When Bud finally gets a chance to speak with him, Gekko is initially unimpressed, until Bud tells him to invest in the airline his father works for. Gekko likes the idea, because Bud tells him some inside information on his Father’s union activity.
We soon find out, that using inside information to make investment decisions is illegal on the stock market, yet Gordon Gekko uses this tactic to keep an edge on his competition. Bud is soon sucked into the world of insider trading and becomes Gordon Gekko’s financial informant.
Unfortunately, the film does little to describe the intricacies of stock market trading and some points in the film seem more than a little confusing. Readers of the Wall Street Journal, or other financial publications should get more out of the details in this film than most casual viewers. Luckily, all is not lost to the general viewer, as the surrounding characters drive a solid story if you manage to grip a basic understanding of the film’s world (and most people should).
Although Gordon Gekko is clearly the cause of conflict throughout the story, the argument for his point of view is engaging and well portrayed by Michael Douglas. Some of the dialogue sequences are simply masterful as Gekko explains why insider trading is a good thing or how making money is addictive, yet good. Charlie Sheen plays the determined, clever and slightly arrogant Bud Fox well, shadowing Gekko like a bit of a schmuck. Darien Taylor (Daryl Hannah) is Bud’s love interest and adds a lot to the glamorous social side of this financial tale, portraying the snobbery of wealth in her opinion of art and design, while providing conflict and motivation for Bud’s character. Martin Sheen is appropriately cast as Bud’s father (he is father to Charlie Sheen in real life) and is successfully “working class” in his role.
I really enjoyed the atmosphere in Wall Street; Manhattan is photographed brilliantly, often draped in sunset or sunrise. If it isn’t orange cityscape sunsets, it’s cold white overcast days; there’s nothing bright and sunny about this world in down town New York. The music is also brilliant, very 1980′s and consequently very mysterious and enticing; with synthesised organ, bells, powerful piano, drum machine and strings. Set design is excellent too, pretentious modern art covers Gordon Gekko’s wall; leather chairs, large desks and several computer screens decorate rich men’s abodes.
Wealth in 1980′s America is made to look extremely appealing. A very masculine, power driven addiction to money and business is conveyed enticingly. The vibe is similar to that in American Psycho, of the corporate world. The film certainly avoids highlighting the dull aspects of big business that permeate the contemporary idea of “boring, fat cats in suits”.
Wall Street is ultimately an enjoyable feature, although it is bogged down by dialogue using financial vernacular, without being clear enough on the audience. The atmosphere and characters are great, however, and the financial commentary gleamed off the surface remains interesting, despite having the detail reserved for those educated few. I’m not sure whether a sequel is the best idea for this film, which is wrapped up nicely at the end – but at the same time, our current world is different from that in Wall Street and seeing the change from 1985 to 2010 is an interesting concept.
I would hope that financial aficionados get even more out of Wall Street, but for general audiences it’s still worth a look if you want something different and topical with good characters.