Wall Street endeavours in archetypal financial greed, garnering lucrative results in the process. "The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don't want to do.". One of many sentiments, and perfectly executed speeches, that resonated with me deeply. This isn't just a generic typical finance-driven drama with unlikeable characters, stockbroker jargon and predictable conflicts of interest. There's more beneath the surface. This is an Oliver Stone picture, at the height of his success. Brush those dollar bills aside, and you'll find an intrinsic commentary on America's cultural deficit fuelled by capitalists powered solely by money and greed. Just an ordinary day in Wall Street, right? A young stockbroker yearns to encounter the legendary Wall Street player Gordon Gecko, but quickly realises that wealth and success comes at an unscrupulous dishonest price.
The classic morality conflict of pitting wealth and power against honesty and nobility. The young idolising the rich and famous, and willing to take as many shortcuts as possible to reach their almighty destination. Perched at the summit of a towering skyscraper in Wall Street. The height of their power. I have to hand it to Stone for writing two very stipulating characters whilst thematically addressing 1980s narrow viewpoint of acquiring money. The onscreen competitiveness complements the relatable subtext almost perfectly, resulting in intense drama.
Whilst the archetypes and conflicts between Gecko and Fox are not unsubtle, a little too on the nose to be hugely thought provoking, it's the bustling environment that they reside in that truly captivates. From Stone's claustrophobic camerawork in crammed elevators to the enraged stockbrokers at the Stock Exchange. It's a workplace that emits intensity within these characters.
Obviously, most viewers now will watch this for Douglas' award-winning performance. Is it his most memorable? No. Is it worthy of the acclaim? Absolutely. There's a subtle nuance about his persona. Enabling that seamless transition from quick-witted quips to frustrated anger. However, what really impressed me was one of the most memorable speeches in cinematic history. "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good". Bang! Hits the nail on the head. Outstanding writing that "captures the essence of evolutionary spirit", executed perfectly by Douglas. It resonated with me instantaneously, and he's not wrong. This credo regarding greed is the manifestation of human desire. We all have this sin. And Stone effortlessly displays this sentiment for all of us to witness. Remarkable. Credit must be given to Sheen as well for giving a commendable and committed performance alongside his father. Scenes with just the two of them were palpable.
Unfortunately however, and it brings me to many criticisms, Hannah was terrible. In fact, her whole character was so underdeveloped, that removing her from the picture would have no effect to the overall story. Unique interior design skills aside, Darien was just a product of secondary success, clinging onto the back of her former lovers. It doesn't add anything to the plot. She's not a lustful plot device capable of persuading Bud to venture into industrial espionage, he made his choice all by himself. She's not an asset for Gecko. She literally has no purpose, and that's frustrating. A male dominated Wall Street needed a better written female character. The plot's climax wasn't hugely satisfying either. I understand why Stone left it open-ended, but considering how closely we've been following this insider trading scheme, it left me desiring a better finish. Oh, and why was it that I kept thinking "this awfully sounds like 'Spyro the Dragon'"? My man Stewart Copeland was heading up the score, that's why! Fantastic composition as always.
For what it's worth, Wall Street's representation of the conflict between working class citizens and cutthroat businessmen was exemplary. Bolstered by sterling performances from Sheen and Douglas, just a dire shame that its lack of subtlety and only female character were misguided.