Wall Street (1987) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Oliver Stone's moralistic and nearly legendary portrayal of Reagan-era greed.
The film has managed to endure and to seep into the cultural framework. It is now quoted freely by people who have never seen it.

And all this has happened in spite of the fact that, while it is a good movie, it is not a dazzling movie.


Suzen Murakoshi is seen frontally naked when she gets out of bed while Sheen works at his desk.

Daryl Hannah might be naked in a sex scene with Charlie Sheen, but it so dark that absolutely nothing is visible.

  • It's one of Stone's tamer, quieter and more conventional efforts, and is relatively free from the sensory overload that normally marks Stone's work.
  • It has a lame ending. After two hours of lurid build-up, pretty much everything in the denouement happens off-camera, and the characters just kinda briefly talk about what happened and what will happen.
  • And Daryl Hannah was pretty much clueless in the role of the sophisticated and pragmatic girlfriend who understood that love "ain't got nothin' to do wit' it", and was looking to mate with the man who would provide the greatest promise of material rewards. Stone mentions in the documentary that he considered, then rejected, then regretted rejecting, a decision to flip the roles of Daryl Hannah and Sean Young. This would have let Sean be the predator, which she could have done smoothly, and Stone could have rewritten the wife part a wee bit to allow some of the unadorned honesty and sweetness that Daryl projects so effortlessly.

I guess the film is remembered mostly because of the great writing and performing for the character of Gordon Gekko, the ultimate Wall Street Shark, and cynic with a capital C. Gekko is memorable not only because he is amoral and ruthless, but more so because he considers those his strong points.

Oliver Stone wrote some great words for Gekko to utter in his cavalier dismissive way, and Michael Douglas absolutely nailed the part to the point that when he gives his "greed is good" speech, you sit there thinking "you know, dammit, I hate this guy, but he's 100% right" - and that's exactly the way the stockholders would have reacted to the presentation he was giving them.

I think this may have been a miscalculation on Stone's part. I think Gekko was supposed to be larger-than-life evil, but he is not. He's surprisingly sympathetic because he's almost always right ...

... greed IS good, if I just reword it a bit. "Greed" is a term tainted by being one of the seven deadly sins. And "good" is not a term that applies universally to much of anything. Yeah, greed is good. Greed is also bad. Sometimes greed is neutral. Instead of "greed is good", let me phrase it as "ambition creates progress". The desire to make oneself more than what's handed out by society and authority is the single greatest force for progress in human history. And the universal presence of that desire is, I suppose, the primary reason that capitalism works for us and socialism doesn't.

I remember how very surprised I was by the deeply ingrained socialist mentality when I lived in Norway. Everyone made the same salary because of the outrageous tax codes, and everyone in my company had the same size office, the same size desk. All very reasonable and rational, except that nobody had any motivation. Let's see. I can work 100 hours a week, so that 30 years from now I can have the same salary, the same office, and four times as much responsibility. Or I can work 30 hours a week, really enjoy my life, so that 30 years from now I have the same salary, the same office, and a joyful and full life relatively free of responsibility. Let's see, which shall I choose?

DVD info from Amazon.

1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic.

Full-length commentary

Documentary (and a really good one) on the making of the film, honest, pulling no punches. Odd to hear the participants criticize each other so honestly. Stone dumps on Sheen and Hannah. Martin Sheen and Douglas admire Stone, but also take some good shots at him.

Greed is good. They needed greed. They knew that, and they got it. Some time after I left, Norway abolished the 99% tax rate on upper income levels and adopted a US-style tax structure on both personal and corporate incomes.

Shaw said, "the reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man"

Thomas Paine, Voltaire, John Rockefeller, Churchhill, Andrew Jackson. All unreasonable men. Some of them of a worse character than Gordon Gekko. All of them important architects of the world as we know it.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: Very few reviews online. Ebert gave it 3.5/4, Maltin 3/4. I guess that's the right ballpark.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.0 out of 10.
  • With their dollars ... It took in $43 million at the box, and 420 million more in rentals. Has also been a solid success internationally.

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