Home Movies & TV Drama Wall Street Review: Greed Is Good!

Wall Street Review: Greed Is Good!

Wall Street Movie Review
Editorial Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Wall Street: The Story

Slap bang in the middle of the yuppie excesses of the 1980s, Wall Street sees a young ambitious stockbroker, Bud Fox (Sheen) join forces with unscrupulous mentor Gordon Gekko (Douglas).  As he becomes entangled with Gekko’s win at all costs, legally underhanded web of greed, Fox’s actions threaten to ruin his father.  

Oliver Stone’s vicious swipe at the corporate yuppie greed of the 1980s managed to viscerally pin down the era a full 30 years before Martin Scorcese did the same with Wolf Of Wall Street, but without the benefit of hindsight. 

Michael Douglas, who was actually better known as a producer at that point,  gave a masterclass as morally bankrupt Gordon Gekko.  His performance would earn him an Academy Award.  The movie is almost single-handedly responsible for the archetypal yuppie uniform of red braces and slicked-back hair.  The mantras that were meant to be a warning, such as ‘greed is good’ and ‘money never sleeps’ ended up being the rallying cry of Gekko wannabes who couldn’t see past the lifestyle to the cautionary tale beyond.  

Wall Street Gordon Gekko
Editorial Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Gekko’s success and alpha male displays draw Fox to him, desperate to get to the top by any means necessary. Under Gekko’s wing, he soon begins to lose sight of his morals in his pursuit of the beautiful girl, penthouse, and rapidly rising bank balance.  

Fox’s fall from grace is as absorbing as it is inevitable.  Though the ins and outs of their financial scheming tend to go over the audience’s head, it doesn’t really detract from the central relationship between Gekko and Fox.  Part mentor and mentee, part predator, and prey. 

Perhaps the biggest criticism of Wall Street is the broad strokes in which the supporting characters are displayed.  The rest of the cast do incredibly well with the two-dimensional characters they are given.  When your supporting cast includes Martin Sheen and James Spader, Stone has definitely missed a trick. Darryl Hannah also has the dubious honor of winning a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress. 

Wall Street Starring Daryl Hannah and Charlie Sheen
Editorial Credit: Twentieth Century Fox
  • Directed by: Oliver Stone
  • Run time: 2 hr 06 min
  • Release date: 29th April 1988
  • 15 certificate
  • Starring:  Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Darryl Hannah, Martin Sheen

Did you know

When Charlie Sheen was cast in the role of Bud Fox, Director Oliver Stone gave him a choice between Martin Sheen or Jack Lemmon to play his on-screen father.  Despite being a huge Jack Lemmon fan, he chose to keep it in the family. 

Editing and Sound Design

Wall Street’s editor Claire Simpson collaborated previously with Stone on Platoon, for which she won the Academy Award in 1987. With a soundtrack by Stuart Copeland, you can’t help but feel just as viscerally a part of the 1980s corporate hubris as you did the Vietnamese jungle in Platoon.  

The Set

Of course, it helped that the film was made during the time it was set.  The real New York was their movie set with key scenes being filmed at 222 Broadway (now Merrill Lynch), The 21 Club, and the Roosevelt Hotel.  All locations with rich movie history. They perfectly portray the capitalist playgrounds of Wall Street in which Gekko and Fox move. 

Wall Street Starring Charlie Sheen and Martin Sheen
Editorial Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Wall Street: Casting

It’s well known that Tom Cruise was originally circling the part of Bud Fox, which eventually went to Sheen, who impressed Stone with his underplayed audition to convey Fox’s lack of experience and naivety.  

Looking back, it seems like Charlie Sheen would have been the biggest gamble, but it was actually Michael Douglas, who was better known as a producer and had recently started dipping his toe into leading-man roles in movies like Fatal Attraction.  Original choice Richard Gere passed on the Gekko role, as did Watten Beatty.  Whatever the chain of events, Stone ignored all of those advising not to cast Douglas and it is difficult to imagine anyone else in the role.  

Both female supporting roles were also miscast, with Darryl Hannah as Bud’s vapid girlfriend Darien.  Both she and Stone have since admitted that she was wrong for the role.  Sean Young wanted the Darryl Hannah role and apparently clashed with almost everyone on set, especially Charlie Sheen.

And is there any movie not made better by the presence of Martin Sheen? Wall Street is no exception.

The Finale

As Wall Street builds to its climax, the tension is almost palpable as the walls start closing in around Gordon Gekko and Bud Fox. Will they double down on their insider dealings in the relentless pursuit of capitalism or is Fox too far gone for a shot at redemption, knowing how he has ruined the lives of those around him in his quest to be like Gekko? 

The answer, while not a cliffhanger or anti-capitalist wish fulfillment, stays true to its central duo.  Douglas is a revelation as Gekko and this is how Charlie Sheen should be remembered as an actor.  


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