From the vault: 1987

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 September, 2008, 12:00am

Wall Street

Starring: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Martin Sheen Director: Oliver Stone

The film: The success of the Oscar-winning Wall Street was partly based on its shock value. Director/writer Oliver Stone wanted to strip bare the 'me-first' ethos of the Reagan era and suitably set his sights on the street that controls much of America's wealth.

More's the point, he created in Gordon Gekko such an abomination of a human being that audiences were instantly as much repulsed by him as they were drawn in by his serpentine style. Michael Douglas pulled on Gekko's perfect business suit - and is still, more than 20 years later, being mistaken for the man he played, as he found during a press conference last week.

The shock comes from the ethics - or complete lack thereof - that Stone and co-writer Stanley Weiser suggest fuel the world of high finance. And the scant regard the main players pay for the people they are supposed to be working for.

The morality play is that a young go-getter (Charlie Sheen, above with Daryl Hannah) is seduced by all Gekko offers, but tormented by the sight of what he might become. What makes the film such a dramatic piece of art is there are no real heroes in this world - even when the young gun trains his sights on Gekko, he does so in such an underhanded way as to leave you feeling grubby. Wall Street is a dark place. And there be monsters.

In a storied career, it remains Douglas' zenith - channelling as he does the best work of his father Kirk, whose best characters were also ones who convinced themselves greed was good (as in 1951's superb Ace in the Hole).

This was before he'd slipped into self-parody, so Sheen convinces us that he was the poster boy for all the promise that the 1980s held.

The beauty in the execution is that, for once, Stone concentrates on the story, rather than the heavy-handed flourishes which become a distraction in his other films.

The feeling was back then that the success of the film might give bankers pause for thought. Wishful thinking perhaps, as recent developments have shown.

The extras: The 20th-anniversary disc includes Stone's superb commentary, which strips not only the production down, but his motivation and his meaning. There's an extended 'making of' feature plus deleted scenes and an excellent hour-long retrospective that gathers all the main players, plus a few real brokers, to discuss the film, and its impact.