Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is a young stockbroker at Jackson Steinem & Co., trying to be successful in 1985. He has been trying to get in to talk with Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), a legendary Wall Street investor in the big leagues, in order to learn how to make it as a big time broker.
Fox’s father, Carl (Martin Sheen), is a blue-collar maintenance worker for the up-and-comer airline, Bluestar. In a conversation, he gives his son information about a lawsuit being overturned against the company and Bud pulls out all the stops to convince Gekko that he has what it takes to play with the big boys and shares the inside information with him.
Against his father’s advice, Bud enters into a corrupt and destructive relationship between Bud and Gekko, who woos him with gifts, women, a penthouse and more. Gekko teaches Bud how to use illegal insider information and he moves up the ranks in his stock market career, making them both millions of dollars.
By the end of the movie, many people are hurt by the addictive world of stock investing.
“Wall Street” tells a story that is loosely based on the junk bond and insider trading scandals of the 1980s. I really enjoyed the story and the characters because they show what can happen to people who become addicted to investing and all-around greed. This is very true and the stock market has made many an investor go bankrupt often because they become greedy and don’t know when to stop speculating. I, for one, know all too well the dangers of gambling and speculative investing because I consider myself obsessive-compulsive and, with each bet and investment, I keep telling myself one more time. This is probably how many investors have lost everything.
“Wall Street” gives us a brief glimpse into the world of the stock market and shows us its destructive capabilities on greedy people and people who invest more money than they can afford to lose.
The cast is all-star all the way with popular actors and actresses of old coupled with rising stars of the 80s. Of course, we have Charlie Sheen, his father, Martin Sheen, and Michael Douglas being the stars of the movie.
For the old and older stars, we have Hal Holbrook playing Lou, an old stockbroker, James Karen playing Lynch, one of the heads of the stockbroking company where Bud works and I was surprised to see Terence Stamp (of Superman and Smallville fame) playing Sir Larry Wildman, the cutthroat nemesis of Gekko.
For the 80s up-and-comers, we have James Spader (“Gremlins”) playing Roger Barnes, a lawyer who went to school with Bud, Daryl Hannah playing Darien Taylor, one of Gekko’s past love interests being used to woo Bud to continue helping Gekko, and John C. McGinley (“Scrubs”) playing Marvin, one of Bud’s best friends and coworker at the brokerage firm.
In my opinion, all of the cast does a phenomenal job and really keep the movie top notch. I really found this movie to be one of my favorite Michael Douglas movies because he really shows a lot skill at portraying such a cutthroat and evil person with a lot of emotion — I really rank his performance up there with the likes of Charlton Heston and his father, Kirk Douglas. Douglas’ greed speech is a masterpiece of dramatic art and really gave me something to think about.
Oddly, this is one of the only movies to win both an Oscar (Best Actor: Michael Douglas) and a Razzie (Worst Supporting Actress: Daryl Hannah) for acting. I really don’t have much of a problem with Daryl Hannah’s performance here but I was probably paying more attention to the investment aspect of the movie to really notice.
Being a finance major in college, I really enjoyed being able to understand all of the financial terms mentioned in “Wall Street” as well as the market and investment situations posed to us. Aside from the basic story of greed and the great acting, “Wall Street” really takes on so much more depth for me because the situations shown are realistic and actually happened with real companies, especially the 80s, which spawned the junk bond and insider trading fiascoes of the time.
Oliver Stone (director and writer) and his co-writer did a fine job of taking complex financial situations and using just enough details to explain them in basic terms without being boring and, at the same time, telling a great story of greed and financial destruction and corruption.
“Wall Street” reminds me a lot of “Scarface” but using financial institutions and the stock market to corrupt the main character instead of weapons and drugs. Bud comes from a blue-collar working-class family and, once he gets a taste of the big money to be had with insider trading, he runs with it.
It also reminds me of another Al Pacino movie, “Devil’s Advocate,” in which Pacino plays the devil and tries to corrupt Keanu Reeves’ character in a law firm. Gekko reminds me of Al Pacino’s character and Bud would be Keanu’s character. There are many similarities, demonic aspects aside.
“Wall Street,” “Scarface” and “Devil’s Advocate” each deals with a main character who wants to be successful and will do almost anything to hang with the big dogs, is corrupted by a fierce mentor with money and all sorts of luxuries and, ultimately, realizes that they have become and try to make amends by sticking it to their mentor (not so much “Scarface”).
In “Wall Street”, Bud strives to be successful and does so with the corrupt ideas and practices of Gekko. Once Bud makes it to the big leagues his whole life and lifestyle change mostly for the worse. He doesn’t hang around with his father much anymore but has no problem giving him money that he owes him and then some. He moves from a cubicle to a corner office with a window and starts forgetting about his friend, Marvin, who really takes offense to the changes. Bud accepts all of Gekko’s gifts, money, penthouse and women and starts hanging with Gekko’s people and henchmen, Gekko plays Bud like a violin and knows all of the strings to pull at just the right time. Bud realizes too late how corrupt Gekko really is and how he fell for everything Gekko told him. But Bud manages to redeem himself and takes full responsibility and punishment for the illegal practices he did.
Without giving the ending away, a few characters are imprisoned but it’s really unbelievable that Gekko was so stupid to be caught the way he was. For the sake of the movie, I guess Stone wanted the bad guy to pay his dues in the end. Other than this aspect of the movie, I really enjoyed it.
At 126 minutes, I was never bored with “Wall Street” and was fully entertained and enthralled throughout the entire movie. In fact, I think this movie would have been even better if it were about 30 minutes longer to fully flush out all of the investment intricacies but most people probably would not have liked that. I just found it fascinating.
In the end, everyone pays his dues and the guilty are punished, unlike many in the real world. Everything needs to be condensed for the movie or else it would have been about 3 hours long and these come together a little too conveniently at the end. Other than that, Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen put on great performances that made me want to see more. I highly recommend this movie to all viewers.
Unlike every other Oliver Stone movie, I believe “Wall Street” spawned his only sequel, with the recently released “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (2010) which continues the saga. Check it out because it takes off right where right where “Wall Street” ends.
Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is good” speech was inspired by an Ivan Boesky speech in 1986. He was an investor who was later penalized $100 million penalty for insider trading charges. He said “Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”
Anacott Steel is a fictional company referenced as one of the semi-pro football teams referred to in the movie “The Longest Yard” (1974). It is also rumored to be a reference to Anaconda Copper, a company that went bankrupt in the stock market crash of 1929.
Bud Fox: How much is enough?
Gordon Gekko: It’s not a question of enough, pal. It’s a zero sum game, somebody wins, somebody loses. Money itself isn’t lost or made, it’s simply transferred from one perception to another.
Gordon Gekko: The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.