Wall Street -- Film Review
Oliver Stone has a tough act to follow: Oliver Stone. His initial post-"Platoon" effort and latest opus on America, "Wall Street," is a blue-chip insider's look at the investment world. Although riveting, it's also anxiously over-inflated with verbal essays and sold short by a clunky, late-locking plot. Nevertheless, this topical drama should still ring up some handsome gains for 20th Century Fox at the box office.
Anyone who recognizes the names Boesky, Jeffries and Winans should be intrigued by the first hour of this engrossing and sometimes spellbinding portrait of the frantic, high-stakes Wall Street world. Stone has a behind-the-scenes knowledge of the chaotic money world -- his father was a broker -- and the film is at its most mesmerizing when the exposing the backside of the brokerage world.
In "Wall Street," Stone and co-writer Stanley Weiser have uncannily superseded the financial world's headlines of recent months; they have merged inside traders with greenmailers and with corrupt financial columnistes, inflating them all with the greed and manic appetite of the pre-October bull market.
Michael Douglas stars as a carnivorous corporate raider, a mulitimillionaire parasite who swallows up vulnerable public companies and spits them out in inoperable little pieces. He's yet another specimen of that always-surviving species, the functioning psychotic. He's also the role model for an ambitious, wrong-side-of-the-tracks stock broker (Charlie Sheen).
The plucky young broker inveigles his way into Douglas' high-pressure office and makes and impression. Douglas likes a feisty underdog and recognizes traces of himself in Sheen. The cunning Douglas senses that Sheen, if jerked around with a tight enough leash and fed plenty of raw meat (Daryl Hannah), is vicious and hungry enough to tear into any assignment Douglas dangles. Next to making millions, Douglas' major passion lies in tearing into the old-school, WASP world of Wall Street, and in Sheen, he's got a lean and hungry pit bull.
Essentially, corporate raider Douglas has Sheen do his dirty work: tailing rivals, hiding accounts, fronting buyouts, driving up prices. Sheen doesn't even have to sell his soul, just his father (Martin Sheen), a chain-smoking, working-class stiff who makes his money the old-fashioned way.
While "Wall Street" opens high with its intriguing glimpse of behind-the-scenes trading and continues to rise with its well-oiled portrait of frantic, fast-lane living, it dips midway with a believable but by-the-numbers love subplot involving Sheen and fancy, equally ambitious interior designer (Hannah). Like many projected winners, "Wall Street" closes at less-than-projected expectations. The shrewdly developed plot involving Douglas' ruthless designs on the elder Sheen's company has, quite frankly, been crammed in too late. Further diminishing the stories hypnotic intensity are Stone's tentative and gropingly repetitive visuals.
Although Stone seemingly lacks confidence with his shot selection, no such hesitancy is evident in his direction of the players; the performances are brilliant. As the amoral and twistedly brilliant raider, Michael Douglas is terrifying. It's a fascinating and mesmerizing performance. With his $1,500 Armani suits and his slicked-back hair (if Pat Riley had an evil twin ...), Douglas' power-crazed glaze could browbeat a whole squadron of SS officers.
Charlie Sheen is commendably convincing, appropriately driven and rough around the edges, while Martin Sheen is, inarguably, well-cast as his decent, blue-collar father.
Hal Holbrook, as a battle-scarred Wall Street warrior, and Terence Stamp, as Douglas' raider rival, give blue-chip performances as well.
Stephen Hendrickson's striking and subtle production design clues in on the complex and carnivorous psychologies of "Wall Street's" high-stakes players.
Opened: Friday, Dec. 11, 1987 (Fox)
Production: 20th Century Fox
Cast: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Martin Sheen, Hal Holbrook, John C. McGinley, Terence Stamp, James Spader, Sean Young, Saul Rubinek, James Karen, Frank Adonis
Director: Oliver Stone
Producer: Edward R. Pressman
Screenwriters: Oliver Stone, Stanley Weiser
Co-producer: A. Kitman Ho
Director of photography: Robert Richardson
Production designer: Stephen Hendrickson
Music: Stewart Copeland
Editor: Claire Simpson
Rated R, 126 minutes