Written by / 4/02/2016 / No comments / , , , , , , ,

GREED RULES IN OLIVER STONE'S UNDERRATED 'WALL STREET'

One of Gordon Gekko's paintings he won't take a bath on
Oliver Stone didn't win an Academy Award for writing and/or directing WALL STREET. His Vietnam opus PLATOON, also about two mentors pulling at a vulnerable Charlie Sheen wishbone, was the anticipated Gold Statue followup to his Best Screenplay for MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, which got the ball rolling a decade earlier. And having been an American soldier in Vietnam, PLATOON was his canvas to paint...

Painting and Douglas
And yet, accolades were and still are very few concerning WALL STREET, giving props to Best Actor Winning Michael Douglas as the iconic Gordon Gekko, a Corporate Raider whose "Greed" speech was as important to his victory as, in a few years, Joe Pesci's barroom clown lecture would be. It's often that one scene seems to usually nail it. But according to both Stone and Douglas, they weren't the best of friends: On the first day, the director asked the big-named actor (on a tremendous roll after ROMANCING THE STONE and FATAL ATTRACTION cleared memory of his STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO television status) if this were a motion picture or soap opera? And while it's never been disclosed exactly what scene in particular Stone referred to, it just might have had to do with playing a villain in a noticeably villainous fashion: The worst kind of cinematic bad guys (or girls) are the ones who seem like nothing else in the process, and with no pulse pumping in-between: as if instead of eating breakfast in the morning they meditate in perpetual darkness...

Real life father/son Sheen
In fact, Douglas's best moments are bringing a sort of genuinely "twisted" humanity to this film's first-billed star, wonderfully playing the ultimate heavy against a lightweight climber in Stone's PLATOON leading young man, Charlie Sheen as Bud Fox, who sells his soul more convincingly by, in this case, using info on his father's union/airlines, than actual Faustian-inspired tales set in the modern world, like, for instance, THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, which this is not only much better than but seems the cinematic origin/inspiration of... For Douglas, at first... instead of harboring the intensity of some demonic manipulator... he's more like a deer springing gleefully through a forest, as Fox's motivation isn't to equal that impossible stride but to follow the heels upon which is tragically predicted an unlucky outcome by dad Martin Sheen in a terrific father/son (mostly one shot) scene, beginning within a silent elevator going down as Martin plays better than he speaks, often spouting blue collar values as if Stone were kissing his typewriter with every punch of the keys. And yet, shocking for a writer/director with a heart usually soaking on his sleeves, and with all the "good greed" abounding during the Reagan era (that liberal baby boomers preferred to call Selfish instead of Prosperous... which would reverse in the Clinton Era), this movie is, surprisingly, far more ambiguous than one might think, and that, other than the actor, is what makes Gordon Gekko so timeless... beneath all his money that never runs out, he really is a climber that only knows to move forward, without looking back – traits embracing any intrepid motion picture hero as opposed to a villain.

Bud Fox is born to be lectured/mentored
And taking a glimpse into the director's personal history, this movie was to Oliver Stone's youth what PLATOON was to his slightly older (yet still young) years; his dad was a hard-working Right Wing stockbroker and, in that, is who Hal Holbrook's friendly yet lecturing, wisely anticipating office broker Lou Mannheim is inspired: on par with Martin Sheen's "work hard without taking shortcuts" virtues and, despite having backed Nixon in the early-1970's and cruising along on a nowhere road in the same office for decades, he sees through Fox even before dad does, and also, doesn't trust money or Bud's foreknowledge of it, one bit.

James Karen pouncing Fox
A film that never stops entertaining, the value is in the "action" of the first half as Sheen goes from put-upon cold-caller in a relatively mediocre firm, bringing you into the caged, hectic setting and, like Bud, wanting out despite the great actors and flowing dialogue; to being a crooked investigative underling, following his prime target (Terrence Stamp) on a motorcycle while thinking up ways to cut corners to bring info and money back to his boss; while the suspense lies with equal momentum the rest of the way through, as Fox rides the tail-wind of success to what could be his own "abyss"...

Meanwhile, grooving throughout the good times and bad is a non-dated yet still completely discernible 1980's soundtrack, highlighted by several David Byrne Talking Head tunes that the techno main theme plays variations of: sounding as if one of those old black and green computer screens magically played music all by themselves, somehow, like a pianola for determined, workaholic yuppies in rhythmic repose. And there are corny moments, that Stone is often prone to in any of his projects, like an exhausted Fox looking out his million dollar penthouse window whispering to himself, "Who Am I?" as interior designing "trophy" girlfriend Daryl Hannah as Darien, equally vulnerable and desirable (who also butted heads with Stone), waits in a large bed, the set bathed in a sort of ominous glow, like Hell itself anticipates their every move... or maybe they're there already, but comfortably, for a little while...

Picturing Wall Street Life
And to cover some other... contrived moments: One scene shows a bum with a shopping cart, and a suited businessman, standing together in the rain, on a street corner, as limo-cruising Gekko makes a point, literally pointing-out to Bud about their contrast: both just happening to be standing there, like an earlier scene in a club locker room where, as Gekko tells Fox about the importance of acquiring information, a guy conveniently walks up and quietly asks Gordon for an illicit stock tip...

An Unfairly Unbalanced Fox
These things seem straight out of a play, or perhaps a coloring book, but somehow it's an old-fashion, dime-novel or even Film Noir approach that works. And returning to Bud's "Who am I?" moment, occurring just when hitting his stride (and literally after peaking sexually following a fantastic meal with Hannah), would he realize he lost his soul so quickly and/or even care at all? Stone mentions this moment during a great commentary track on the DVD, discussing and often defending a movie that most critics saw as a potential yet pale followup to his "greatest motion picture achievement," PLATOON, which is, really, if you look closely at Charlie Sheen's duo mentors... both obvious in their agendas... is completely the reverse of within a far more subtle WALL STREET...

More Smoking of Winston Cigs
Gekko is what he is the whole way through, and the genuine acting triumph lies far beyond just one of those performances that exceeds the film itself, which WALL STREET, to many, is the epitome of, and yet is very far from being. Working backwards here, from the 1980's to the 1990's, using Quentin Tarantino as a comparison: while the sublime Vietnam flick was Stone's PULP FICTION, exploding with epic grandiose while putting him on both the Hollywood and Household-Name map, this is more of a grounded-in JACKIE BROWN, paying more laid-back attention to the details than the devil. For any fans of the John Landis comedy TRADING PLACES knows, the convoluted work going on with the actual Stock Market "Floor Traders" makes little to no sense to an uneducated-in-such-matters audience, no matter how many times viewed: You just have to go with it, and let the characters make more sense to the story – beyond what they're actually doing.

JCM Rules
RATING: ****1/2
TRIVIA: Most of the information has been already mentioned, as you should see this movie on DVD or BLU RAY to hear the terrific director commentary that covers a whole lot of ground, but there are still things to take notice of: Like Oliver Stone himself in a cameo as a broker... His son, who played a young, plump, dead-Indian obsessed Jim Morrison later in THE DOORS, plays Gekko's son... While the usually villainous greedy yuppie type James Spader plays a nice cautious fella with no guts while the equally jerk-off casted Sal Rubinek, as Gekko's lawyer, is in his usual weenie form... And not only is Sheen returning from Vietnam in PLATOON, but scene-stealer (in both films) John C. McGinley also returns, playing Bud's best friend/partner in the cold-calling firm run by an always-watchable James Karen, the Murray Hamilton of POLTERGEIST... In another small role, this a cameo, THE SHOOTING starlet, and the first cinematic Anne Frank, that being, Millie Perkins, turns up as Bud's mom while Sean Young has an even more (or rather, less) wasted potential as Gekko's wife, and yet her scenes are intriguing and realistic, as usual with the controversial yet talented and beautiful actress... Martin Scorsese regular goon Frank Adonis plays one of the blue collar root-for characters... Franklin Cover, best known as "the white guy married to Lenny Kravitz's mom" on THE JEFFERSONS turns up in one of his few movie roles • And the eerie portrait at the very top of this article/review, that Bud says would only be worthwhile "If you're on mushrooms," is one of the many modern paintings that Hannah's character bought with either Gekko or Fox's dough.
Wide Shot of Gekko's War Room including a painting of the GHOST demons and what look like pinball machines
"You're fired, but maybe you can talk the networks into a possible Jeffersons spin-off called... The Zebra Bunch."
Here's a shot of the famous, or infamous, GREED IS GOOD scene, and to Wall Street, and Hollywood, it's Truth.
A very great scene between Martin & Charlie Sheen, both who starred in popular Vietnam Flicks
Daryl, it could be worse news, believe us, wait a few years, Charlie just couldn't stop... And he's not winning.
Nice use of what was popular during the 1960's and 1970's, Split-Screen Cinematography featuring Sean Young
Canvas that provides THE END closing credits layout and father dedication for WALL STREET
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