'Wall Street'

CATHY BURKE, United Press International

'Wall Street,' the new film by director Oliver Stone ('Platoon'), is updated Faust: The devil gambles in corporate shares and a poor-but-honest stockbroker sells his soul for a piece of a multimillion-dollar illusion.

Stone, who dedicated the movie to his late father, a stockbroker, started out with this well-worn theme, then created a new kind of villain, played wonderfully by Michael Douglas, for a new kind of generation, one exposed to the rise and fall of 'corporate raiders' who gamble millions on America's big and small corporations.


How these raiders -- some call them pirates -- operate is the background against which this film's Faust unfolds. It is a story almost everyone knows: Ambition battles morality, wins, then loses. In 'Wall Street,' redemption comes with a probable jail sentence on federal charges of securities fraud.

What makes 'Wall Street' a good film isn't that its release comes at a time when America's attention is riveted on fortunes that seem to be crumbling in the stock market crash of 1987. It's something much less timely, but truly timeless: the devil himself, recreated in 'Wall Street' as Gordon Gekko (Douglas), suave, sophisticated, smart, cynical, ruthless and heartless.


For different reasons, two young people, both talented and both insecure, are drawn to Gekko. The beautiful decorator, played by Daryl Hannah, owes her career to Gekko but is afraid to cross him because she's afraid what life without money would be like. Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen, is the smart young stockbroker who believes he can be a little dishonest as long as it doesn't hurt anybody.

Fox fights to be noticed by Gekko, and when he wins his attention, learns that further favors require that Fox get prized information - anyway he can. Such information is the basis on which big deals are made. Fox wavers only a moment before deciding that the ends will justify the means, and he begins a skyrocketing career that makes him enough money to buy the kind of upscale life you see on 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.'

The deal that turns it all sour, however, is the one in which Fox helps Gekko take over the airline at which Fox's father, played by Sheen's real-life father, Martin Sheen, has worked for 24 years. Gekko, true to form, lies about his intentions for the firm, and the young Fox finally sees that he may cause the demise of the firm and lose the respect of his father as well.


The conflict may be familiar, but Stone brings the mystery of Wall Street's heros and villains, its big-stakes players and two-bit salesmen into sharp focus. It's a look that is both exhilarating and astounding.

Yet what's most astounding about 'Wall Street' is the pure magic of Douglas's villainy. At the heart of the film is a speech Gekko gives at a shareholders meeting of the mythical corporation, Teldar Paper. The speech was based on one given by real-life corporate raider Ivan Boesky, now barred from trading in the securities industry in this country.

'The point is, ladies and gentlemen, greed is good. Greed works. Greed is right. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all its forms, greed for life, money, love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, mark my words, will save not only Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.'

The words are delivered with such cynical force, it could lure the angels into a hostile takeover of heaven. Only a great actor could make you wonder -- just for a moment, as Bud Fox does -- if a little greed might not be OK after all, especially if it can buy the right to one day live out your more honest dreams.


To its credit, 'Wall Street' doesn't end with simple redemption. But for all its updates and twists on an old theme, it is the devil himself -- unapologetic and evil -- that you remember best about this Wall Street Faust.

This film is rated R. Movie contains strong language and nudity.

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