Wall Street (Insider Trading Edition) Review

Tempestuous as he may be, Oliver Stone has been and will remain a key American director, rooted in our country’s troubles and triumphs, cutting his swath with an occasionally dull but typically pointed edge. Many have bashed Stone when he geared up to direct Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – perhaps unfairly. His 1987 film Wall Street, preserved in yet another re-release, is a landmark, an aggressive, influential look at 1980s marketplace cynicism writ large. And much like this DVD, the film’s subject matter, while feeling very close to home, is in need of an update, a more current look at today’s grim economic times. The Insider Trading Edition claims to offer new extras but as you’ll find in the course of this review, the special features are truly baffling, fluff replacing the actually insightful extras of the 20th Anniversary edition. This DVD is a cash-in, pure and simple, featuring a transfer very much in need of a massive overhaul, preserving Robert Richardson’s stellar (as always) photography.

I’ll spare the obligatory quoting of Gordon Gekko’s (Michael Douglas) infamous motto and jump right into the story. Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen, post-Platoon and still appropriately fresh-faced) is just a cut above the guys chewing each other out on the floor of the stock exchange. As a junior stockbroker at minor firm Jackson Steinem, he is pushing against invisible odds to get to a higher level…and pay grade.

Fox quickly finds a mentor if not ally in Gekko, a self-made financial mastermind, immortalized by Douglas as the height of ‘80s underhand dealing. He is a smooth criminal, a junkyard dog blessed with an uncanny gift for finance and a sharp tongue. Of course, all is not what it seems and while Bud quickly makes his way up from lackey to yet another Gekko wannabe, he sees cracks in the veneer. A primary subplot concerns Bluestar Airlines, the company for which Bud’s blue-collar father Carl (Martin Sheen, in a real stretch of casting) works for. As Gekko and Fox begin to trade blows over the company, everything unravels.

Stone offers an atypically controlled set of directorial flourishes, choosing instead to rely largely on what I can only assume to be an exhaustingly well-researched script co-written by Stone and Stanley Weiser. The shop talk comes in massive waves of financial slang and actual terminology but Stone and Weiser always bring us to the ground level, keeping us emotionally involved and always aware of what is going on in the big picture. And a big picture it is, thanks to Robert Richardson’s fluid camera. Outside of World Trace Center, this is probably Stone’s most New York centric film and the scenes that open Wall Street, kick starting the movement of society in the wee hours of the big city feel naturalistic and not too far removed from the hustle and bustle of the modern-day Big Apple. Seeing stockbrokers complain that the economy is garbage is also prescient but not too revelatory given the endless ups-and-downs that mark each hectic day on Wall Street and around the world.

Douglas is thankfully offered several revelatory moments of genuine humanity and does not come off like a cash-starved monster bent on playing the game that doesn’t end. His speeches are grandiose and his grin is the devil’s own but when Gekko talks about the measly work his father did or takes a moment to admire the sunrise, Douglas offers the glimpse that must have factored in his winning the Best Actor Oscar that year. Gekko is not an outright villain, just another desperate man, outfitted with an army working under him and a hunger that in the end outshines Fox’s but can’t possibly fulfill the schemer in question. Whether Gekko has changed after 23 years remains to be seen. Regardless, Wall Street does and will remain an important film and an equally entertaining one.

DVD Bonus Features

I’ll make this really simple – the second disc of this edition is the literally the movie with a burnt-in trivia track. Never mind that the first disc features the same commentary as the prior editions and could have easily been saddled with this trivia track. Also included is “Fox Legacy With Tom Rothman,” pretty unnecessary although Rothman is seemingly genuine in espousing that villains are more interesting than heroes. Finally, a meager 2-minute interview bit for Money Never Sleeps closes out an extremely disappointing disc.

"Wall Street (Insider Trading Edition)" is on sale September 7, 2010 and is rated R. Drama. Directed by Oliver Stone. Written by Oliver Stone, Stanley Weiser. Starring Martin Sheen.

Mark Zhuravsky • Staff Writer

I'm a prolific blogger, writer and editor who loves film.


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