“Greed is good.”
Certain movie lines stand out in screen history almost immediately, and that credo of financial wizard Gordon Gekko — played by Michael Douglas, in an Oscar-winning performance that immediately broadened others’ perceptions of what he could do — is among the many memorable aspects of “Wall Street,” director Oliver Stone’s glossy and compelling 1987 drama being shown by EPIX Hits on Thursday, Sept. 15, and by EPIX on Saturday, Sept. 17. It’s also streaming on Paramount+.
“Wall Street” is a morality play in the literal sense, also driven by Charlie Sheen as Bud Fox, an ambitious young stockbroker who’s desperate to get into Gekko’s world. He finally gets his shot, but also gets in over his head right away … using a piece of insider information from his airline-laborer father (played by Sheen’s actual dad Martin) to impress Gekko, who makes Fox his legman under highly questionable circumstances.
Excited by his new role and its potential, Fox has no problem enjoying the perks Gekko starts sending his way, including the means for a lavish new apartment and a notably nicer wardrobe. He also acquires a new girlfriend in an interior designer (Daryl Hannah) who knows she owes her career to Gekko, who’s instrumental in sending clients her way. And she also knows the perils of crossing him, a position that Fox eventually finds himself in.
“Wall Street” is a fast-moving feast of the sights and sounds of big business … and also of New York, and some of the locations the film visits aren’t in operation anymore. Still, 35 years later, the movie doesn’t feel dated. That could be became its themes are so universal, particularly when economic matters are of such concern to so many people, as they are these days.
The excellent cast also includes Hal Holbrook and John C. McGinley as colleagues of Fox, James Spader as a friend Fox uses to advance his own agenda, and Terence Stamp as a Gekko rival who plays a pivotal role as the fallout between Fox and Gekko deepens. In their own ways, each of those characters (along with Fox’s father) keeps a moral center in “Wall Street” even when the main figures might seem ruthless.
Douglas and Stone revisited much of what “Wall Street” poses in the 2010 sequel “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” but the original movie gets its job done in such an effective way, it still has a fresh feel. Much of that is thanks to the ferocity of Douglas’ work, which opened a new chapter in his career that brought him more parts of complexity and depth. In that way and others, “Wall Street” had its value, and still does as a prime example of thinking-person’s entertainment.