- A very fertile period for director/writer/auteur Oliver Stone. This is the film directly following 1986’s Platoon where Stone and the film won the Academy Award for best picture and director—and Born on the Fourth of July is just two years away in 1989.
- The film also benefitted from being extremely timely- Black Monday- one of the worst days in the history of the stock market was on October 19th 1987—Wall Street was released a few weeks after in December 1987
- Before his collaborations with Scorsese and Tarantino- DP Robert Richardson got his start with Stone- this doesn’t compare with his best work- but this is his third feature film (Salvador, Platoon– all with Stone)
- Stone is just oozing confidence here coming off Platoon –political filmmaking, taking on capitalism is nothing new (this is the screenwriter of 1983’s Scarface from De Palma). This is a potent (though like the rest of Stone’s work, thoroughly un-subtle but that is description, not a complaint) critique. One of the best parts of Gordon Gekko’s character is the rationale- the backstory of his own father, the scene on the beach on the massive cell phone talking about the beauty of the scenery
Stone is just oozing confidence here coming off Platoon –political filmmaking, taking on capitalism is nothing new (this is the screenwriter of 1983’s Scarface from De Palma). This is a potent (though like the rest of Stone’s work, thoroughly un-subtle but that is description, not a complaint) critique. One of the best parts of Gordon Gekko’s character is the rationale- the backstory of his own father, the scene on the beach on the massive cell phone talking about the beauty of the scenery
- Opens with Sinatra’s “Fly Me To the Moon” with a montage of the finance industry and New Yorkers going to work
- The dialogue cracks and pops like the best of Wilder or Sorkin— it has heft, volume, “at 4pm I’m a dinosaur”, “American Express has got a hitman looking for me” Art of war “sheep get slaughtered” stuff and then of course the impeccable writing for the Gordon Gekko character : “Lunch is for wimps”, “Money never sleeps” the whole “Greed is good” sermon.
- Small but nice touch in the introduction of Michael Douglas’ Gekko character—the first glimpse you get of him (through narrative vehicle Charlie Sheen’s aspiring Bud Fox) you only get a glimpse of him before the door is closed in your/Fox/camera face
- At the 16 minute mark is when we get the full introduction of Gekko—the 5 minute tour of his office. It is a brilliant role and performance. Co-stars Hal Holbrook and others handle themselves well- but this is Douglas’ film
the impeccable writing for the Gordon Gekko character : “Lunch is for wimps”, “Money never sleeps” the whole “Greed is good” sermon here
- There’s more cinematic detail in Stone’s work than appears at first blush- I think, and rightly so, the first time through it is Stone’s writing, the rise and fall narrative, the characterizations and performances-—but upon rewatch you notice shots like the camera flying in via tracking shot on Charlie Sheen’s Fox when he “bags the elephant” with Gekko.
- A great companion piece is 1957’s Sweet Smell of Success with Douglas’ role akin to Burt Lancaster and of course Tony Curtis in the Charlie Sheen seat
- twice in the film the lighting goes dark (unnaturally) behind the character in the middle of the scene – stunning—a choice to accentuate by Stone – happens at the 33 minute mark when Sheen’s Fox first takes the bait from Gekko— it happens again (formal touch here) when Douglas’ Gekko tells Fox to dump the stock near the end
- a morality play, good and evil—Faust—just like Platoon– again with Charlie Sheen having a good and bad angel on each shoulder. In Platoon it was Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger. Here it is his own father, Martin Sheen and Douglas vying for his soul. This plays out in the very intentional artwork in the film (another bit of strong visual style- here via mise-en-scene). You need a big actor to play Martin Sheen’s role and it works. He’s not blown off the screen by Douglas. Either is Terence Stamp’s “Sir Larry” character—shrewd casting. Stone would admit later that Daryl Hannah was miscast and I’d agree with him there
a morality play, good and evil—Faust—just like Platoon– again with Charlie Sheen having a good and bad angel on each shoulder. In Platoon it was Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger. Here it is his own father, Martin Sheen and Douglas vying for his soul
very intentional artwork in the film (another bit of strong visual style- here via mise-en-scene)– here in his new apartment during the middle of his own transformation to the dark side
- like the artwork Stone is very intentional about the placement of the homeless in the frame as part of the mise-en-scene and the larger statement he’s making
- the 1980’s fashion is perfect- suspenders, slicked back hair, sushi—a film that would inspire other films (and real life) from American Psycho to Wolf of Wall Street
- wonderful use of The Talking Heads “This Must Be the Place” – plays over the closing credits as well
- Highly Recommend- top 10 of the year quality film
– Definitely a classic 80s film
– Good call on the comparison to The Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Tony Curtis’s character is
probably even more morally bankrupt than Bud Fox who at least kind of redeems himself at
the end. Definitely similarities between Gordon Gekko and J. J. Hunsecker
– Interesting how you have an all time amazing performance with Douglas as Gordon Gekko
and an all time terrible one with Hannah in fact to my knowledge it’s the only film that has
both an oscar winning performance and a Razzie winning (or losing depending how you look
at it) performance
– I love how in Boiler Room (2000) the characters are sitting around in a mansion taking turns
quoting it, here’s the clip starting around the 1:25 mark:
– Highly rewatchable
What do you think of Charlie Sheen as an actor? I just watched Wall Street and Platoon back to back and was thinking about it. I wouldn’t say he’s amazing in either but I did enjoy the performances, especially Wall Street. I liked the idea of using Martin Sheen (clearly the superior Sheen acting wise) as his father in the film. I like the angel/devil comparison with Platoon.
Obviously Sheen’s no DiCaprio but I couldn’t help but think about Wolf of Wall Street when watching. Overall I really enjoyed the performance and thought he held his own his scenes with Douglas, who obviously gives an extremely iconic performance.
@James Trapp- I like Charlie in these two roles with Oliver Stone specifically. Just because he gets dusted off the screen by Michael Douglas doesn’t mean he’s not pretty damn good himself. I also think he clearly has some comedic chops in the Major League films.
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