On DVD: Wall Street

Oliver Stone's Wall Street is a landmark picture for a number of very good reasons. Its subject matter was ripe for motion picture treatment, and it was released at just the right time. Wall Street is a capsule of angst from the 1980s, capturing the morally untenable excess that defined much of that decade, and the years since. Perhaps that is the reason the film has held up so well, and why the forthcoming sequel seems appropriate instead of just opportunistic. Unfortunately, this new DVD release (the so-called "Insider Trading Edition," continuing the laughable, regrettable tradition of "named" special editions) from Fox is just that. Transparently timed to coincide with the sequel's release, this DVD jettisons the solid bonus content from the earlier "20th Anniversary Edition" and replaces it with disposable junk that adds nothing of value to the film itself, which is presented here in a holdover transfer that doesn't do justice to the film's slick visuals.

I have the honor of being the fifth person to review Wall Street for DVD Talk, so I'm going to keep the plot summary brief and to the point. Idealistic and idiotically naïve Bud Fox (fresh-faced Chuck Sheen) goes to work for the tiger of Wall Street, the oily and foul Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Bud gets rich quick, takes up with Daryl Hannah, receives blowjobs, etc. The point is that he becomes exactly the guy that his mechanic father (Martin Sheen) tried not to raise; he loses himself and destroys the company his father works for in the process.

Oliver Stone was the perfect person to take on the subject of corporate raiders of the 1980s. An era soaked in booze and dusted with coke, Stone knows excess because he was one of its practitioners, both in life and behind the camera. But Wall Street is one of Stone's more controlled films, finding the co-writer and director behaving with something like journalistic restraint. The story, as written, is largely observational, and Stone's direction favors his actors. Sheen is green enough here to be credible, and of course Douglas owns the picture with his towering portrayal of Gekko, a cold-hearted cutthroat who we know is destined for a series of heart-attacks.

The supporting cast is excellent, once you look past Daryl Hannah's totally groan-inducing part as an interior decorator. Terence Stamp plays a rival corporate raider who Bud spies on at Gekko's behest. Hal Holbrook plays honest career trader Lou Mannheim, the inverse of Gordon Gekko in terms of his influence on Bud. Perhaps best of all is Stone regular John C. McGinley at his scenery-chewing apex as Bud's obnoxious coworker.

Equal to its command of the tone and business environment of the 1980s is the way Wall Street captures the look and feel of its setting. Robert Richardson's photography is fluid and economical, and Stephen Hendrickson's production design has surely influenced every film since that takes places in a similar environment. The images of Wall Street have stayed in the collective memory as the defining version of the way corporate America looks. It's one of the major reasons this thrilling, well-acted film remains relevant and entertaining. 

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