You know, it's easy to look at the "Greed is Good" speech that Gordon Gekko makes to the shareholders of Teldar Paper in Wall Street and see why people have held onto that soundbite for so long, as it really was a quote that symbolized the American financial community during the 1980's. Within the context of the scene where that line appears, it serves as an effective and memorable punctuation mark where Gekko wins over the attendance at a shareholders' meeting, and is one of several excellent and outstanding monologues given by Michael Douglas, who as we all know earned an Academy Award for his work here.
In the Teldar Paper sequence alone, he manages to shift the portrait of him being a business cannibal back to one of management efficiency, then he tells the shareholders that he'll make a lot of money for them without acknowledging his reputation, and they eat up every word. But don't take my word for it, go to IMDB and take a look at the quotes that Gekko utters. "A fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place." "What's worth doing is worth doing for money." As Gekko, Douglas manages to take someone whose nature is one of capitalism at all costs, and makes him palatable and appealing. You might have a disagreement with him even at a basic level, but his manner of delivery in a kind of urban Shakespearean manner disarms and attracts. It's a great character, and Douglas' work was well worth the praise.
But enough about Gekko, there are other characters too. And Wall Street was written by Stanley Weiser and directed by Oliver Stone (Any Given Sunday), and was set in the New York financial district in 1985. Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen, Major League) is a young broker in a financial house, looking to bend the ear of the financial whiz, Gekko. As he wins the attention and trust of Gekko, Bud's personality transforms. His father (Martin Sheen, Apocalypse Now) works as a union chief in an airline where Bud worked before exchanging his blue collar for one in white, and Bud's dad provides an ample dose of reality, or tries. Bud's co-workers Marv (John C. McGinley, Scrubs) and Lou (Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild) also serve as a barometer of Bud's transformation, and Bud's girlfriend Darien (Daryl Hannah, Splash) is one of the many rewards of Bud's allegiance to Gordon and the hard work he puts in.
Now sure, the film's memorable character is Gekko, and he's got his fair share of colloquialisms, but the way that Gordon brings in Bud and seduces him with the rewards of the lifestyle of the rich and famous is great. In terms of the overall presentation, Gordon basically shows Bud what it's like, and if he doesn't want it, well, see you later. Long ago, Gordon's morality seemed to have been chucked by the wayside, and that morality doesn't figure into the presentation of sorts that Bud experiences. Bud sees that some of what he's doing is wrong, but makes the decision to go ahead with it. Even as he tries to persuade a college friend (James Spader, Boston Legal) to join him on the occasional endeavor, Bud's execution echoes some of Gordon's pitch, and his "everybody's doing it" statement is almost equating committing a federal offense to cigarette smoking, which shows you where Gordon and Bud's value structure might be over the course of the film.
And what keeps Wall Street going now, two decades after it was released, is the amount of corporate malfeasance that still occurs every day. We've had Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia and countless other instances of corporate greed by those at the very top, instances where those involved never knew when enough was enough, even after they were sprinting past the line of legality. To paraphrase something said in the supplements of the disc, after Wall Street or some other significant impacting financial event, everyone took note, but no one seemed to take to heart. So as long as this money-grubbing still goes on, the legacy of Wall Street will endure.
The Blu-ray Disc:
This 1.85:1 widescreen presentation of Wall Street (it's labeled as 2.35:1 on the case) uses the MPEG-4 codec, but there's not a lot of newfound detail to be had from previous standard definition versions. In fact, it almost looks like there wasn't too much care put into this version, as it appeared there was some edge enhancement that could be spotted on Gekko when he and Bud meet the Blue Star labor heads at Bud's apartment. The bottom line is don't expect to be wowed by this.
Another DTS HD Master Lossless Audio track for an older Fox catalog title on Blu-ray, and another underwhelming effort. There's an occasional speaker pan or two, but even with the songs and score, everything is just coming from the front channels without any real attempts at immersion. The soundtrack is as hollow and ill-equipped as my childhood. Wait, did I say that last part out loud?
The extras are the same as the recent 20th Anniversary edition, released on standard definition in 2007. Stone provides an introduction to the film in which he talks about his thoughts on the film now, and also contributes a commentary for the film. Always a solid commentary participant, Stone shares his thoughts on the film and why he wanted to do it. Among the tidbits to gain from Stone's commentary is how personal a film it was to make, as his father worked on Wall Street for decades. He discusses other projects he was looking at when this came along (he almost directed Quiz Show at one point), and talks about casting decisions before the final cast was hammered out, such as Burt Lancaster as Sir Lawrence Wildman and Jack Lemmon as Bud's dad. It's not as active as other Stone commentaries, but it's still on par with his others. A group of deleted scenes and alternate takes (22:39) are another nice surprise, though most of them are silly, including an extended Teldar sequence and an appearance from Penn Jillette that was excised from the final cut (thank God). Stone provides commentary for as well and he talks about why they were cut. "Money Never Sleeps" (47:38) is one of the two extended looks at the film, which features new (or at the very least recent) interviews with Stone, Douglas and Sheen as they talk about the film, their preparation for it, and some of the memorable scenes in it. It's not stated why, but judging from this piece, Stone and Hannah did not appear to see eye to eye on the ideas for her role, and Sheen and Douglas concur to an extent. I wonder what all that is about. It's not too bad of a piece. The other one is "Greed is Good" (56:37), which does talk about the production some more (and includes interview footage from McGinley and Holbrook), but mostly focuses more on the real-world perspective from investors who were around in that era. It's a little bit too long but still has quite a bit of information. Fox Blu-ray trailers for Cast Away, The Devil Wears Prada, Phone Booth and the director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven round things out.
Wall Street remains an excellent look into the business community even as the film passes its twenty year anniversary. The extras are solid and worthwhile, the only thing that doesn't make this film great on Blu-ray is the fact that it's not altogether memorable in high definition. If you don't have a copy of Wall Street, this will probably be as definitive as you're going to get, so I'd recommend buying it. Having said that, if you've got the Anniversary Edition and a Blu-ray player, there's no need for the double dip.