Wall Street boasts several excellent performances (including Michael Douglas who won the Best Actor Oscar and Golden Globe for 1987) and fascinating ideas, delving into the world of stockbrokers and their involvement in greed and morality. These aren’t uncommon ideas, but taking a look into a world rarely investigated by feature films sheds some light on an industry that typically caters only to the wealthy. There are consequences and reactions for every trade and scrutiny by many unlikeable characters. Just as the stock market itself seems to exist for upper-class New Yorkers, Wall Street the movie favors those with prior knowledge of corporate raiding, insider trading and more than just the basics of stocks and investing.Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is an account executive stockbroker, working his way from being the little guy at a medium-sized firm to dreaming up a career as an investment banker. As he works alongside friends (John C. McGinley as the over-enthusiastic Marv) and older acquaintances (Hal Holbrook as Lou, the seasoned broker who never pushed his way into the big times), Bud realizes that he needs to add the wheeling-and-dealing millionaire Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) to his client list in order to make it to the top. When he finally gets his foot in the door, he realizes the dangerously affluent man doesn’t need another broker – he needs an insider.
Bud’s first mission is to follow around Sir Larry Wildman (Terence Stamp), a notably wealthy investor whose presence in New York most certainly involves stocks. This activity leads to more underhanded tactics, including spilling inside information about his father’s (Martin Sheen) employer Blue Star Airlines, which Gordon sees as the perfect opportunity to exploit. Although the ruthless moneyman shows Bud the ropes, teaching him all the ways in which the art of war applies to stock trading, the young broker begins to realize that greed isn’t always good.
The downfall of the movie is the heavy Wall Street lingo that starts in fast and never lets up. Withholding explanations to the fancier terminology doesn’t help either, especially when much of the suspense relies on a fairly solid understanding of the stock market. The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) is constantly on the lookout for red flags for insider trading, but it wouldn’t be unlikely to question what exactly is legal or illegal about the many questionable endeavors Fox undertakes. Inside information is where the real money is at, but Wall Street doesn’t divulge too many definitions for those unsure of what Gekko and Fox are playing at.
As for performances, Daryl Hannah plays Darien Taylor in a remarkably unconvincing role as Bud’s interior designer love interest, James Spader makes a brief appearance as a young lawyer, Charlie Sheen seems a tad overdramatic in the lead as his wealth deteriorates his morals, Martin Sheen is more memorable as the father, and Douglas steals the show as the rich guy you love to hate. Banking $800,000 per day, he’s the perfect realistic villain for a movie about greed. “Why are we roasting this guy? Did we run out of human beings?”- Mike Massie