I first watched Wall Street a few months ago to prepare for the impending sequel Money Never Sleeps, and I found it a touch underwhelming. I was born in the 1980's as opposed to really living it, and watching a movie about the excess and decadence of the decade is like seeing through a crystal ball. I know how it's going to turn out, culturally, and, probably also literally; I may not have known the exact details of Wall Street's ending, but I had the gist of it. Watching it again, I wonder if maybe that's the point, that it was clear even then: how can anyone look at Bud, with his aviator sunglasses and cheesy sweaters, running around town repeating everything Gordon says like puppet, and think the guy's not in over his head?
Perhaps the most compelling thing about the film is how it turns stocks into an elaborate magic trick. There is no value, only perceived value. A crappy painting can hang on a wall in a rich businessman's office for years and be worth ten times the sticker price when he's ready to sell, just because everyone assumes the businessman wants it for a specific reason, that it must have some sort of value or meaning. It's both funny and staggering to watch how Darian (Daryl Hannah), an interior decorator, old fling of Gordon's, and Bud's dream girl, spends untold amounts of money to make Bud's apartment look like it's cracking and crumbling. Even Bud himself doesn't quite understand it: he just lets Darian do whatever she wants, and never considers whether it's actually interesting or practical. The illusion is more important.
In a world where everyone's after ethereal, obscure things, Gordon Gekko wants to give the people what they want. One phone call with a cryptic message -- "Blue Horseshoe loves Anacott Steel" -- and the market is his to manipulate. He informs a roomful of investors that their company is being suffocated by its own board of directors not because it's true (even if it is), but because it's what the investors want to hear. When Gordon ends up up with Bud's father's company, Bluestar Airlines, and chooses to tear it down and sell everything for a quick buck, he doesn't do it for something as twistedly noble as teaching Bud a lesson about doing business without emotion, he does it because he changes his mind, and the bottom line is more important. It doesn't matter to Gordon what he wins or why, just that he wins, and the other guy loses.
The film is bookended with scenes of people walking the streets of New York, Bud among them. Director/co-writer Oliver Stone and co-writer Stanley Weiser look down on these people. It's a perspective that invades the entire movie, draining it of some of its power. In the end, the sequel goes too far, arriving at an unsatisfying conclusion, but at least that film gives you something to root for: the possibility that Gordon is a changed man, the hope that Shia LaBeouf's Jacob Moore can escape with his dignity intact. Wall Street is cynical about its characters, watching Bud make poor decisions and scoffing at him. He's the lesser of two evils, naive and glib rather than smug and emotionless. Rise and fall can be compelling, when we see something the characters don't. Wall Street is a handsome movie with solid performances, but it makes ambition seem shameful.
The Video and Audio
Dolby Digital 5.1 is also muffled, although it's a touch less choked than the picture. The back speakers stayed relatively quiet, but dialogue is audible throughout and the music sounds just fine. French and Spanish 5.1 are also included, as well as English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and French and Spanish subtitles.
Since the only holdover on disc 1 is an audio commentary by Oliver Stone that dates back to at least 2001 (the film's first DVD release), and the disc is, ahem, suspiciously similar to the first disc of the 2-disc 20th Anniversary Edition, menus and all, there's no excusing Fox's laziness when doing this cash-in. A proper (if still unnecessary) re-release would have added the trivia track as a subtitle stream on Disc 1, and added the new extras to the slate of features from Disc 2 of the 20th Anniversary set (which are not present here), but I guess Fox was too busy to do any of that. Not to mention, again, the feature itself could use a new transfer.