One More Time For Wall Street

Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Hal Holbrook, John C. McGinley, James Spader, Terence Stamp, Sean Young. Directed by Oliver Stone. Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1. 126 minutes. 1987. 20th Century Fox 2000633. R. $24.99.

When Wall Street was released in 1987, Michael Douglas scared folks who had long been convinced of the cold-blooded nature of big financiers. He sharpened their murky nightmares and brought them to life as the reptilian Gordon Gekko, with hair by Exxon and chic suspenders holding up $1000 pants, snapping out orders to demolish companies, jobs, and lives in his scorched-earth quest for financial supremacy. In that era of trickle-down economics, soaring national deficits, and a muscle-bound military eager for adventure, Gekko was a symbol of the lust for excess.

Lots of those formerly scared folks now own stocks themselves and hope that the market never sinks to the pathetic lows of the 1980s. Not only is greed good, as GG said, but it's so obviously good to so many that it's a cliché. To paraphrase another icon of the '80s, pity the fool who don't have a bulgin' portfolio!

Gekko, the man with the portfolio to die for, is a symbol of the ultimate in Wall Street success to young Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), who's trying to work his way up the ladder. The key word there is "work": to Gekko, it's anathema to prosperity. He creates nothing, as he says with pride. His money comes from hostile takeovers of companies he plans to dismantle—the sums of their parts are more valuable on the bottom line than they are whole, which is all that matters to this man obsessed with making deals.

Fox pursues Gekko like a suitor, courting him with expensive cigars on his birthday and landing him with insider information about the airline his blue-collar father (Martin Sheen) works for as chief mechanic. Bud is so naïve that he thinks that, once he's in, all of his studying of companies and stock trends will make him rich. Gekko turns the tables, however, and begins courting Bud: He wants the ambitious, inexperienced trader to gather information for more insider deals—foolproof in every sense except that they are illegal and unethical. Once he's been seduced by Gekko's tales of wealth and power into spying, lying, and stealing to get the valuable info, Bud's life quickly spirals upward. He's got lots of money, a trophy girlfriend, and a million-dollar apartment. But his life spirals downward even more quickly when Securities and Exchange Commission investigators track him down.

Though Charlie Sheen is fine playing the wide-eyed innocent, it's Douglas who makes Wall Street worth seeing again. He plays a powerful man in a commanding, Oscar-winning performance full of fury, smiles, and a cooing, reassuring voice. He attracts and repels the audience in the same way his character lures and eventually disgusts Bud Fox.

Director Oliver Stone keeps us engaged by moving his camera around Fox's trading firm—in close on the faces of the characters, back out to views of New York's famous skyline—but such techniques don't draw attention away from the unfolding story. And the script (co-written by Stone) keeps the intricate wheelings and dealings untangled.

The transfer leaves a bit to be desired; the picture is soft, though grain-free and without edge enhancement. The sound is also nothing special: Very little use is made of the surrounds, which is understandable in a movie focused almost entirely on dialogue. Extras include a commentary track by Stone, a "making-of" documentary, theatrical trailers, and TV spots for the movie.

Wall Street is worth revisiting, whether it's to feel your skin crawl when Gordon Gekko extols the virtues of greed, or to once again savor his smooth seductions and deals.