Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Wall Street

The ultimate Oliver Stone moment takes place toward the back half of 1987's Wall Street, when Charlie Sheen's slick young broker pauses to consider his nouveau empire. Strolling out onto the balcony of his Upper East Side high-rise suite, with the lights of Manhattan in front of him and the leggy Daryl Hannah sprawled out in his bed inside, Sheen gazes off into the distance and sighs out loud, "Who am I?" That's Stone in a nutshell: Present the audience with the simplest, least sophisticated morality tale imaginable, then throw in a line like that, just in case the point wasn't clear. This may be a stretch, but it's possible to discern from that scene that Sheen, in his get-rich-quick avarice, has perhaps compromised his soul.


That aside, Wall Street remains one of Stone's most tolerable efforts, because in its heavy-handed way, it's still strongly attuned to the period's material excesses, epitomized by conspicuous gadgetry (brick-sized mobile phones, electronic sushi-rice compactors) and modern art less cherished for its beauty than its market value. Coated with flop-sweat beneath his cheap suits, Sheen plays a cold-calling underling at a brokerage firm who studies his charts and gives desperate five-minute pitches to potential clients. Meanwhile, he tries to "bag the elephant" in the form of Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko, a corporate raider who finally yields after the persistent kid tips him off to some inside information. From there, Douglas takes his young protégé to the top by liberating him from securities law.

The fiscal-speak in Wall Street is loaded with weird malapropisms ("We'll raise the sperm count on the deal," etc.), but it has an intoxicating buzz; little wonder that many would-be Gekkos see the film more as an inspirational video than a cautionary tale. Truth be told, Douglas' "Greed is good" speech is far more compelling than the tongue-clucking sermon that precedes it, which isn't the first time the movies have made sin look more attractive than righteousness. In spite of Stone's proselytizing for good, honest labor, audiences can be forgiven for wanting a pint of Douglas' snake oil instead.

Key features: A dull Stone commentary track, two hourlong documentaries (one a making-of, the other about Wall Street), and 20 minutes of deleted scenes, including an unintentionally hilarious confrontation punctuated with a line from the McCarthy hearings.