Sunday, August 15, 2010

167) Wall Street (1987)

167) Wall Street (1987) Dir: Oliver Stone Date Released: December 1987 Date Seen: May 8, 2010 Rating: 3.5/5

There are two main things that make Wall Street one of my favorite of the admittedly small number of Oliver Stone's films* I've seen. Firstly: I love Michael Douglas's performance. I saw this a couple of months after rewatching Basic Instinct and I have to say, I really like Douglas when he's in sleazy smooth operator mode. There's that one scene in Basic Instinct where he's just had sex with Sharon Stone and he psyches her jilted lover out with a line as happily squalid as, "I think she's the fuck of the century. What do you think?" He says it so well. It left me begging for more, made me want to revel in that kind unibrow decadence just a little longer. And voila, just the thing for me.

Just so we're all on the same playing field: I don't think Wall Street works as a drama. Stone is self-consciously tackling zeitgeisty themes, scads of contemporary research and his ceaseless tyro's need to prove himself all at once. And while I know that's his M.O, that makes the script for Wall Street, which he co-wrote with Stanley Weiser, clogged with stiff, unconvincing and sometimes perplexing dialogue that sticks in the throats of all of the film's performers save for the better/more experiences ones. Charlie Sheen and John C. McGinley both gag a bit every now and then but Douglas never does.

Douglas's Gekko is flat-out convincing: I could see myself buying a used car from him, any used car, just gimme the lease now, please. There's gravitas to his Gordon Gekko and a fearful inevitability to his actions. I'm especially thinking of the scene where Sheen's Bud Fox is practically begging Gekko to stay interested in him while the two men take a ride in Gekko's posh limo (or was it a town car? I seem to remember a limo but I could be totally wrong). Douglas's lines are more than a little convoluted but they're ultimately inconsequential as he radiates such easy menace throughout the scene. He single-handedly saves the scene from devolving into a mess of ridiculous high-handed dreck with an exact but seemingly improvised show of nonchalance . That's Douglas at his best, effortlessly oozing charisma on command. A lot of papa Spartacus's charm rubbed off on him and boy does it show here (Gosh, I loveWonder Boys as much as the next guy but a man cannot subsist on Curtis Hanson alone).

The other thing I love about Wall Street is how absurd the film's concept of technological marvels is. I'm not talking about the fact that I'm watching Wall Street 23 years later from its original release date, which in technology years is pretty vast (like dog years, except smaller). Obviously, Wall Street is plenty dated and the thing that ties it to its specific place and time the most is the portable tv and the tape recorder Fox proudly and strategically whips out at just the right moments, as if he invented the damn things just for those moments.

But you don't have to be George Jetson to know that there's something inherently fishy about the idea that Fox is able to confidently walk up to anyone, let alone Gekko, in an open field in Central Park, with a clunky tape recorder down his pants (I know, I know, it's in his waistband but c'mon, humor me, will ya?) and do it with some swagger while doing it. Those things were massive. Just massive hunksa gadgetry. And Fox is strutting up to Gordon Gekko with one dangling around his crotch like he were the Mozza himself. Ah, such kitsch.

*At the time of this writing, I have only seen this, Platoon, Nixon, Alexander (director's cut) and W. I own VHS tapes of The Doors and Salvador though. And I'd love to see The Hand. Recommendations, preferably ones that try to take my taste into account, would be appreciated.


  1. sometimes wonder if you would like U-TURN or NATURAL BORN KILLERS. I personally love BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY the most though.

    also enjoy Michael Douglas most in sleaze mode

  2. A good friend of mine hates NATURAL BORN KILLERS and I'm not sure how eager I am to see it based on his description. May bite a bandolier of bullets and watch it at some point though. Hadn't even heard of U-TURN until now. Will look into it.