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Wall Street: 20th Anniversary Edition DVD Review

Wall Street (1987) movie poster Wall Street

Theatrical Release: December 11, 1987 / Running Time: 126 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Oliver Stone / Writers: Stanley Weiser, Oliver Stone

Cast: Michael Douglas (Gordon Gekko), Charlie Sheen (Bud Fox), Daryl Hannah (Darien Taylor), Martin Sheen (Carl Fox), Hal Holbrook (Lou Mannheim), Sean Young (Kate Gekko), John C. McGinley (Marvin), Saul Rubinek (Harold Salt), Sylvia Miles (Realtor), James Spader (Roger Barnes), Franklin Cover (Dan), James Karen (Lynch), Josh Mostel (Ollie), Millie Perkins (Mrs. Fox), Terence Stamp (Sir Larry Wildman)

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On March 30, 1987, Oliver Stone won the Academy Award for Best Director. The achievement came in response to Platoon, the year's Best Picture Oscar winner, for which writer-director Stone drew from his own experiences in the Vietnam War.
Less than a month after taking home the statue, Stone was back behind the camera to make Wall Street, another personal film though less directly so; Stone's father worked long and hard as a New York City stockbroker. That is the life that the movie's young protagonist embarks on, taking the director from the Vietcong jungles to the asphalt jungle of lower Manhattan.

Fresh out of NYU with thousands of dollars in student loans looming over his head, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen, Stone's Platoon star) wants a life different from his father's (real-life dad Martin Sheen), who has spent decades as a modestly-paid, blue-collar worker at tiny airline Bluestar. Like any Wall Street rookie, Bud is relegated to little league "cold calls." An idealistic go-getter, he wants more and sees wealthy tycoon Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) as the key to it. After weeks of trying to contact Gekko, Bud's persistence finally pays off when he's able to squeeze in five minutes of face-to-face time with the busy businessman.

Thanks to some inside information he's able to share on Bluestar, Bud strikes up a working relationship with the scruples-free Gekko. But according to Gekko's terms, the partnership must go beyond bulk stock orders. In addition to the usual wheeling and dealing, there's law-bending, vendetta-spawned spying, buzz-generating, and some bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. There's also excess. Working under Gekko's wing, Bud is treated to pretty women easily wooed by money, eventually clicking with Darien Taylor (Daryl Hannah), an ambitious interior decorator, who unbeknownst to Bud, has history with Gekko on the side of his wife (Sean Young).

Lots of work, not much money: "Wall Street" protagonist Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) wants more out of his job than just cold calls. "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good" utters Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in his famous shareholders speech.

Wall Street revels in its titular setting, immersing itself and viewers in the technical and complex world of stock trade, as viewed through the eyes of desperate and corrupt men. There is an authenticity present to the material that suggests Oliver Stone and his co-writer Stanley Weiser (whose subsequent scripting has been limited to TV movies) know the universe first-hand. There's nothing to confirm that, meaning that the technical advisors deserve praise, and perhaps Stone's insistence of operating exclusively in a real office setting had some desired effect. The attention to detail and specifics are something that -- the DVD supplements contend -- has made Wall Street the quotable, definitive finance movie for those in that world or heading that way.

A substantial number of people either don't know or don't care how the stock market works, but gladly the film packs enough of a human angle to keep these viewers hooked too. A morality tale through and through, Stone's film can't be called subtle. The young, headstrong college graduate who, thinking he knows what he wants, is lured in by the Devil himself and compromises his values step by step until it comes back to bite him where it most hurts. It's a compelling arc. One can't help but feel something as Bud climbs from a nobody to the guy with the office, from a boy who asks his father for money to a man who gets to adorn his lush new penthouse apartment with all sorts of pricey decorative touches. It's obvious that through the transition, Bud lacks meaning in his life, loses a hunger which negatively affects his personality, and is apt to fall down the corporate ladder at any moment. Though it doesn't seem to be intentional, even his romance with Darien seems to lack substance and passion.

Talk about inspired casting! These two look like they could really be father (Martin Sheen) and son (Charlie Sheen). Daryl Hannah plays Darien Taylor, a role that earned the actress her first of three Razzie Award nominations for Worst Supporting Actress (and her only "victory").

Likewise, there is little doubt to Gekko's suave ruthlessness. His hair is slicked back like then/longtime L.A. Lakers head coach Pat Riley and his confidence and power are as noticeable as his expensive suits and suspenders. Just in case you're uncertain of Gekko's true nature, Stone even has the frame darken on him at two points. For his unwavering work in the role, Michael Douglas netted a Best Actor Oscar, defeating Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, William Hurt, and Marcello Mastroianni. Douglas' performance was the only aspect of Wall Street that was positively singled out by award committees.

Over time, the corporate raider he portrayed has become an emblem for 1980s excess, if for no reason greater than the fact that most '80s movies were escapist fantasies, comedies, or period dramas.
Wall Street is none of the above and its focus on a genuine contemporary issue, coupled with a theatrical release that came just two months after the 1987 stock market crash, grant it a relevance and weight that perhaps aren't completely merited. Observe how the American Film Institute -- a body which rarely recognizes films of the past twenty-odd years outside of historical dramas -- named Gekko the 24th greatest villain in cinema's history.

The weakest moments of Wall Street come when Stone seems to think he's doing something loftier than he is. The film tries to strike a profound note on the nature of man and how it pertains to abyssal introspection and before that it's volleying various degrees of profanity about the worth of fictitious companies. It's all tolerable and even rather engrossing. The climactic rainy showdown between Gekko and Fox, the jaded lizard and the malleable canid, borders on ridiculous and it's one of a few points where audience members may contest Stone's otherwise sufficiently believable structure. It is moments like that make Wall Street a good movie, but not the great one that the level of serious discourse about it implies.

Buy Wall Street: 20th Anniversary Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 4.0 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Mono 2.0 (Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English, Spanish;
Closed Captioned
Release Date: September 18, 2007
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Black Dual Amaray Keepcase with Slipcover


Wall Street debuted on DVD in the fall of 2000 in an anamorphic widescreen transfer and that's how it reappears in 2007 for this remastered two-disc 20th Anniversary Edition DVD. Maintaining the film's 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, the presentation has the good film looking good.
The element remains mostly clean, though it's plagued by the odd intrusion and instance of grain. Flesh tones are excellent, offering improvement from the red-tinted and slightly hazy visuals of the older disc. In short, this is a step up and though it leaves room for an even better presentation, it will satisfy all but the tiny minority that's probably not even buying standard DVDs anymore.

In the sound department, Wall Street boasts four tracks in three languages, but only the two English varieties offer a surround experience. The default option is an English Dolby Digital 4.0 track which encodes three distinct front channels but has the rear speakers sharing a stream. It's just okay; the movie is heavy on dialogue, quite a bit of which is glaringly looped. There's some vitality found in the few atmospheric stock trading crowd scenes, but for the most part it's subdued. A Dolby Digital 5.1 track that's presumably comparable to the old disc's only English mix, is also provided, as are Spanish and French dubs in two-channel Mono.

Writer-director Oliver Stone is among those interviewed for the new documentary "Greed is Good." (He also provides an introduction and an audio commentary.) In this deleted scene, John C. McGinley tries to talk sense into the leading man, something he does regularly today on "Scrubs." Director Oliver Stone and star Charlie Sheen stand by one another in a production footage clip from "Money Never Sleeps: The Making of 'Wall Street'."


Disc One's only bonus feature is an audio commentary by writer/director Oliver Stone, which is ported from the 2000 DVD. Stone speaks only when he has something to say, which results in some quiet patches, but don't let me mislead you; he has lots of relevant and revealing observations to share. He doesn't sugarcoat his stories or hesitate to point out things he was displeased with (like Daryl Hannah and Sean Young).
Those with mixed feelings towards the film may feel somewhat out of place listening along, as the filmmaker responds to critics' assertions by defending all his decisions. On the whole, though, it's a captivating track which includes stories about Frank Sinatra and Tom Cruise and proceeds well into the end credits.

Disc Two holds the remaining four extras, beginning with a minute-long introduction from Stone, which probably ought to have gone on Disc 1.

The new documentary "Greed is Good" (56:30) provides present-day interviews with Stone, Charlie Sheen, Michael Douglas, John C. McGinley, Hal Holbrook, and a host of finance workers and powerful CEOs. The skillfully-compiled piece focuses largely on Wall Street's depiction of the business world. Those who work in the stock exchange and other money-driven faculties heap praise on the authenticity and story of the film many cite as inspirational, while also reflecting on the 1980s marketplace. Though sections on the movie's popular legacy, characters, and quotability should interest any fan of the film, this feature does skew quite a bit to the trading industry, lessening its general public appeal. It's still well worth viewing by anyone inclined but perhaps not reason enough, were it on its own, to upgrade.

Next are Deleted Scenes (22:25), which are more significant for "who" and "how" than "what". Who? Penn Jillette (of comedy magician team Penn & Teller) appears as a perturbed client of Bud's. How? Stone films one scene with a camera strapped to Charlie Sheen's body fixed on the actor as he chews the fat with his co-workers. The collection also includes outtakes and alternate takes of Stone filming his tiny cameo and Douglas repeatedly delivering his rolled-down-window dialogue. Aside from an alternate ending (that affords Hannah's character some film-closing redemption), there isn't much of consequence to the content, which is presented in a rough, worn state. If Wikipedia is correct, there are a lot more deleted scenes that aren't included here, as part of a 160-minute early cut from which the film was pared. Stone doesn't say either way, in his optional commentary.

Also carried over from the 2000 DVD, "Money Never Sleeps: The Making of Wall Street" (47:35) mixes then-new interviews with Stone, Douglas, Charlie Sheen, and Martin Sheen, production footage, and scenes from the movie. The candid comments deal a lot with the movie's themes and plot, while also touching upon methods employed to get best performances and sharing certain stories from filming. Though rendered somewhat superfluous by "Greed is Good", this substantial supplement maintains value for dealing more closely with the movie and the craft behind its making.

Sir Larry Wildman (Terrence Stamp) and a Gekko & Company check for one million dollars are just two of many elements worked into the animated Disc 1 Main Menu. Disc 2's one and only menu matches Disc 1's, with an animated montage of its own.

Strangely, though there was clearly room for them, the two Wall Street trailers found on its original DVD have not been carried over. The TV spots promised but not delivered on that disc are a no show as well. That's a little disappointing, since there was clearly room on either disc for some previews. It's unusual for Fox, which often serves up original trailers for the featured film and related other ones.

The animated menus aptly reflect the film they accompany, with an excerpt of the distinctly 1980s score, employment of stock ticker-type scrolls, and montage of scenes and images from the film all adding up to two slick, appropriate main menus. Silent and static, the few submenus maintain the feel in a simpler way.

While the packaging seems to over-rely on the iconic nature of Gordon Gekko (complete with his oft-shortened signature quote on greed standing in for where a critic's might go), it scores points for not only providing a scene list insert but for making it part of another fine 4-page booklet. As usual, the booklet delights with information on production and reception, serving to contextualize the movie rather than promote it. Well-written paragraphs on efforts for accuracy and Douglas' scene-stealing performance are so enlightening and appreciated that one can't help but wonder why other studios shy from granting their own revisited movies a similar in-package bonus.

The sharp-dressed corporate raider and his naïve protégé take a no-nonsense drive together. Go ahead and laugh, Gordo. The joke's on you!


Oliver Stone's Wall Street is a movie that's easy to watch and get wrapped up in. Michael Douglas' Oscar-winning performance, Charlie Sheen's appropriately grounded lead turn, and a talented supporting cast all help elevate the material from patent Faustian financial drama into something that people can point to as representation of 1980s yuppiedom and cutthroat corporate culture. Not great enough to justify its significance, the movie seems to have circumstance and its contemporary setting to thank for eliciting such serious consideration. Regardless, those in the money business continue to herald the film and those of us who aren't are still able to be entertained by the compelling humanity and lack thereof in the rise-and-fall morality tale.

Fox's two-disc 20th Anniversary Edition offers some improvement over what was already a decent DVD. Picture is improved, the biggest bonuses of the old disc resurface, and a lengthy new documentary and a collection of deleted scenes enter the mix. Is it enough to get you to drop what you're doing, run to the store, and buy the DVD? Not unless you quote the movie like Gospel and are compelled to watch it regularly. While it's a fine release for a first-time purchase, the deleted scenes and new doc both seem lacking in replay value, leaving just modest video improvement to justify rebuying the film. If you haven't seen the movie at all, you should. You won't have to just nod blankly the next time someone condenses an entire era's behavior to the words "Gordon Gekko" and you also won't have to blindly accept the movie as a masterpiece.

Note: On the date of this review's publication, Amazon.com is pricing this DVD at just $8.99, which does make it a much more attractive set.

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Reviewed October 5, 2007.

Text copyright 2007 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1987 20th Century Fox and 2007 Fox Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.