Classic Intel: Wall Street - Blu-ray Review

'Whether the story is phone hacking by journalists or corporate corruption in the finance sector, Wall Street feels like it has something to say about the fatigable nature of big business morals'

It's easy to see why Oliver Stone returned to the Wall Street story for a sequel last year. With the recession still biting and bankers taking the brunt of the blame, Stone couldn't have asked for better free publicity for a film which presents itself as the sole trader in truths about big money in America. In reality though, Stone needn't have bothered. One of the biggest pieces of praise you can lay on his original Wall Street is that it feels timeless. Whether the story is phone hacking by journalists or corporate corruption in the finance sector, Wall Street feels like it has something to say about the fatigable nature of big business morals.

And so, his tale of young trader Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) slowly losing his noble centre having encountered ruthless money maker Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) engages in showing that it's not just Gekko whose morals might be in the wrong place. Bud's sales manager has more changes of heart than occur in your average operating theatre, all of them related to money. Conflicted love interest Darien (Daryl Hannah) is ultimately only motivated by money and creating her ideal life. Ditto several other characters, including an all-too-easy to forget about appearance by James Spader.

The audiences' own morals are supposedly represented by blue-collar hero Carl Fox (Martin Sheen) who attempts to guide his son through his difficult period in a piece of meta-commentary that Stone couldn't have known he was engaging in back in 1987. M. Sheen's scenes with C. Sheen are amongst the highlights of the film but really, Douglas steels the show as the enigmatic money man who has it all. Gekko is a creation composed merely of all the stereotypes of Wall Street traders but because of that it's far too easy to believe everything we see. Douglas' charm and the way he attacks words like 'pal' leave us in no doubt that he's not really looking out for Bud's best interests, not that that stops you from getting swept up in the espionage-like central narrative.

Following Charlie Sheen through that narrative is hit and miss. Sheen has never felt like a natural screen presence, which forms part of the reason why his awkward style of acting works so well in the Hot Shots films. Against better actors (Douglas, M. Sheen, Hal Holbrook) this isn't noticeable: Sheen comes across as the young gun with big ambitions which - perhaps more by coincidence than design - is exactly what his character should be. Against less authoritative actors though (Hannah, John C. McGinley, Spader) when Sheen should be taking the lead he instead comes across as unconvincing and shallow and the definition of Fox's character suffers. The coda end in the park too feels ill-handled by Stone although it does give a final tantalising glimpse at the Sheen/Douglas battle, complete with sloppily directed punches which obviously don't connect yet still draw blood. Quite the opposite from Stone's punches, which land heavy blows on the American ideas of wealth, greed and moral sustenance.




Look further...

'A fearless portrayal of the money market in the 1980's, combining themes of power, revenge and greed perfectly' - Cinematic Paradox, 8/10

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