Wall Street (UK - BD RB)
Scott McKenzie likes Wall Street but he doesn't like blue shirts with white collars
Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is a young Wall Street stockbroker with a good salary, but it doesn’t stretch far enough in Manhattan in 1985 and he constantly has to borrow money from his father (Martin Sheen). He longs to be a player, doing big deals with the big guns and chances his luck by calling multi-millionaire trader Gordon Gekko every day until his secretary relents and gives him an audience with his hero. Once Bud gets a taste of the good life he can’t resist and will do anything to keep living the dream, even if his actions become more and more questionable…
Fresh from Oscar glory with Platoon, Oliver Stone threw himself straight into telling another story of recent American history. From one perspective, the story follows the classic ‘80s tale of someone who gets the wealth they always craved then discovers that money isn’t everything, but it’s the underlying themes that make Wall Street such a great movie more than twenty years on. Its central theme is that of Bud making a deal with the devil (aka Gordon Gekko) and as is always the way when the good are seduced by evil, there’s no escape.
The key scene occurs when Bud finally manages to get an audience with Gekko. Even though he thinks he’s the best broker in the world, Gekko beats down his trading suggestions within seconds and he realises he needs to use insider information from his father if he’s going to have a chance of dealing with him. Charlie Sheen has made some questionable career choices since the ‘80s, but I’d say that Wall Street and Platoon are his two greatest performances. Without saying anything, the look on his face as he walks out of the meeting tells us that he’s out of his depth and has given away more than he wanted in exchange for his dream.
The screenplay contains many moments like this, and it’s testament to the acting ability of the main players that in a movie littered with rousing speeches, a simple change of expression can tell the audience so much. But there are speeches, oh yes. In the same way that movies like Napoleon Dynamite have memorable one-liners, Wall Street has entire pages of memorable dialogue. A perfect example of this is in Boiler Room, where the small-time traders played by Ben Affleck, Vin Diesel et al take turns in talking along with Gordon Gekko in the scene where we meet him for the first time.
It’s not just Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas (in an Oscar-winning role) that light up the screen. Wall Street contains an excellent supporting cast, with Martin Sheen providing reality checks for Bud and the opportunity for a great gag in Hot Shots! Part Deux. John C McGinley offers comic relief but unfortunately his presence dwindles during the course of the movie as Charlie ventures further down his dark path, and Terence Stamp plays Gordon Gekko’s antagonist, who later turns into a good guy when Bud's perception of Gekko changes.
The should be little doubt that Wall Street is a guy movie, which is occasionally to the detriment of the few female characters. Given that the central male characters are so well-developed, it’s a shame that Darryl Hannah and Sean Young have little to work with other than being a money-grabber and a shallow, happy wife respectively. Bud Fox has no female role model either, but it’s possible to count at least three different father figures throughout the course of the movie. So while it may not be the best date movie ever made, Wall Street is still a classic American movie of any time period, not just the 80s.
Oh dear. I’m starting to become concerned about the quality Fox’s Blu-ray output. Were it not for the pop-up menus, I would have sworn that they had sent us a DVD by accident. The opening 20th Century Fox logo is wobbly and grainy as hell, which doesn’t set expectations high. After that, the quality does improve but you still don’t have to look closely to find the odd scratch here and there and the whole movie looks grainy from beginning to end. Black is more like dark grey, which is criminal in the supposed high definition presentation of a movie filled with people in sharp suits. The movie is also presented in 16:9 widescreen rather than its original ratio of 1.85:1 so those of you who have picked up a Blu-ray player hoping to see your favourite movies looking as good as they did in the cinema the first time around should steer clear of this release.
Oh dear part two. Wall Street comes with DTS-HD audio options, but I have to say I wasn’t impressed. Maybe it’s the movie itself that’s underwhelming from an audio point of view, but I can’t think of any moment when I thought I was watching a movie with anything other than a Stereo soundtrack. The surround channels didn’t seem to be getting much of a workout and while there are some great choices of music in the movie, the music in general sounded flat. There is no problem with the volume level of dialogue, music and ambient effects though so while the soundtrack might not impress, it won’t make it difficult to enjoy the movie.
We run into more problems with the extras, I’m afraid. There are no exclusive extras on this release and all we get are the same as we got on 2007’s 20th anniversary DVD. Apparently the deleted scenes with optional commentary from the DVD were supposed to be included as well, but I couldn’t find them in the extras menu on the review disc. First of all we get the commentary track that first appeared on the movie’s first DVD release in 2001. Oliver Stone is flying solo but he likes to talk and is very candid, in particular when talking about his Wall Street trader father, who was the inspiration behind the movie, and the difficulties on set with Darryl Hannah and Sean Young. Oliver Stone also provides a one-minute intro to Wall Street, which would have been useful if it actually played before the movie.
The Making of featurette is also from the 2001 DVD and includes retrospective interviews with the main actors and the director. There is repetition with the commentary track but most interesting to me was the revelation that Charlie Sheen had the choice of casting Jack Lemmon or his real father in the role of his screen dad, which led to some unique situations on set when they had to go head to head near the end. The ‘Greed is Good’ featurette was new to the 2007 DVD and focuses on the real Wall Street, with Oliver Stone reminiscing about his father (again) and the actors discussing their research into the culture before filming began. Watching these featurettes also lets you appreciate the drastic change in the colour of Michael Douglas’s hair between 2001 and 2007. Two trailers for Wall Street and additional trailers for Edward Scissorhands and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer are also included.
Wall Street is a classic piece of American filmmaking and antique mobile phones aside, has stood the test of time after more than twenty years. However, this Blu-ray disc has just been bashed together from last year’s DVD and the whole project feels very lazy. The video and audio quality isn’t what we should expect from a high definition release and my recommendation is to pick up the DVD instead for half the price. Trust me—you won’t be able to tell the difference.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 17th March 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Italian DTS 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish
Extras: Director's Commentary, Intro By Oliver Stone, Greed Is Good Featurette, Money Never Sleeps: The Making Of Wall Street, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Oliver Stone
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Michael Douglas, Darryl Hannah, Sean Young, Martin Sheen, John C McGinley, James Spader
Length: 120 minutes
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