“I look at a hundred deals a day. I pick one.” – Gordon Gekko
An essential primer course to learn the stock market. Wall Street (1987) was a zeitgeist film that encapsulated the yuppie fever of more money, less servitude-to-mankind mentality. Michael Douglas, as the iconic Gordon Gekko of “Greed is Good” mantra, deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Even though the film was a big hit and was garnished with solid reviews it was one of those odd cases where even then it was underrated. Today it is the Bible of Big Business films. Hardcore capitalist-king monologues, critical insider trading crimes, the jargon on deal-making major financial acquisitions – all mined in a brilliant screenplay written by Stone and his co-writer Stanley Weiser.
Filthy rich Gordon Gekko (Douglas) buys and sells commodities, but in essence, creates nothing. He contributes nothing to the world and reaps on speculation worth. He gets involved in buying one-hundred thousand shares of stock as a daily acumen, but gets really excited about takeovers of corporations distressed. It’s 1985, and he sees a rapacious go-getter in Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen, career apex). Gordon coaxes Bud to participate in insider trading that manipulates the value of stock shares.
Few films encapsulated as many legendary lines of dialogue than “Wall Street.” The dialogue is prophetic for what was intended on later times. “The most valuable commodity I know is information. Wouldn’t you agree?” Gekko remarks to his protégé. This was a screenplay ahead of its time.
It’s not that Gekko needs a protégé to conquer the commodity exchange. I feel it could just be a self-serving lark to micromanage another human being’s life. Consider it this way: he invites Bud into his circle if money talks, but if it doesn’t, he is ready to spit him back out again into the guppy pond. It’s not that Bud gets overwhelmed in the film’s second half by debt (no such thing, right?), it is that his loyalty to his father’s company Blue Star airlines becomes a just principle to him again.
“The thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don’t want to do,” says Lou Mannheim (Hal Halbrook), the elder statesman stockbroker. The cocky kid grows a conscience and squares up to undo his wrongs. The Cobra King, in his Morty Sills suit, is ready to make Bud his cockroach. Gekko thinks he has his protege pinned to the wall. Watch “Wall Street” to see how Bud turns the tables on his mentor. There isn’t entirely a happy ending, since securities and exchange commission agents intercept the white collar malfeasance.
“Wall Street” in retrospect is one of the strongest and most enduring of all Oliver Stone films. It followed a year after his Oscar win for “Platoon” (1986), and was before the modestly budgeted “Talk Radio” (1988), before Stone would return to Vietnam saga stories and 60’s revisionist histories once again. Also in the “Wall Street” cast is James Spader, John C. McGinley, Chuck Pfeiffer, Sean Young, Martin Sheen as Bud’s father, and Daryl Hannah as the blonde interior designer who is pretty much a high-priced slut.
126 Minutes. Rated R.
Film Cousins: “Inside Job” (2010); “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (2010); “Margin Call” (2011); “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013).