REVIEW: WALL STREET 1 & 2

CAST
Charlie Sheen (Hot Shots)
Michael Douglas (Ant-Man)
John C. McGinley (Highlander 2)
Hal Holbrook (Lincoln)
James Karen (Hercules In New York)
Tamara Tunie (Flight)
Martin Sheen (The West Wing)
Terence Stamp (Superman 2)
Daryl Hannah (Kill BIll)
Sual Rubinek (Memory Run)
In 1985, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is working as a junior stockbroker in New York City at Jackson Steinem & Co. He wants to work with his hero, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), a legendary Wall Street player. After calling Gekko’s office 59 days in a row trying to land an appointment, Bud visits Gekko on his birthday with a box of Gekko’s favorite, contraband Cuban cigars. Impressed at his sheer boldness, Gekko grants Bud an interview. Bud pitches him stocks, but Gekko is unimpressed. Desperate, Bud provides him some inside information about Bluestar Airlines, which Bud learned in a casual conversation from his father, Carl (Martin Sheen), the union leader for the company’s workers. Intrigued, Gekko tells Bud he will think about it, but also that he “[looks] at a hundred deals a day,” but “[chooses] one.” A dejected Bud returns to his office. However, Gekko places an order for Bluestar stock and becomes one of Bud’s clients. Gekko gives Bud some capital to manage, but the other stocks Bud selects lose money.
Gekko gives Bud another chance, and tells him to spy on British CEO Sir Lawrence Wildman (Terence Stamp) and discern Wildman’s next move. Bud learns that Wildman is making a bid for a steel company. Through Bud’s spying, Gekko makes big money, and Wildman is forced to buy Gekko’s shares off him to complete his takeover. Bud becomes wealthy, enjoying Gekko’s promised perks, including a penthouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and a trophy girlfriend, interior decorator Darien (Daryl Hannah). Bud is promoted to a senior stockbroker as a result of the large commission fees he is bringing in from Gekko’s trading, and is given a corner office with a view. He continues to maximize inside information and use friends as straw buyers to provide more income for him and Gekko. Unknown to Bud, several of his trades attract the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Bud pitches a new idea to Gekko: buy Bluestar Airlines and expand the company, with Bud as president, using savings achieved by union concessions and the overfunded pension. Even though Bud is unable to persuade his father to support him and Gekko, he is able to get the unions to push for the deal. Soon afterward, Bud learns that Gekko plans to dissolve the company and sell off Bluestar’s assets in order to access cash in the company’s pension plan, leaving Carl and the entire Bluestar staff unemployed. Although this would leave Bud as a very rich man, he is angered by Gekko’s deceit and racked with the guilt of being an accessory to Bluestar’s impending destruction, especially after his father suffers a heart attack. Bud resolves to disrupt Gekko’s plans, and breaks up with Darien when she refuses to go against Gekko, her former lover.
Bud devises a plan to drive up Bluestar’s stock before manipulating it back down. He and the other union presidents then secretly meet with Wildman and arrange for him to buy controlling interest in Bluestar at a significant discount. Gekko, realizing that his stock is plummeting, dumps his remaining interest in the company on Bud’s advice. However, when Gekko learns on the evening news that Wildman is buying Bluestar, he realizes that Bud engineered the entire scheme. Bud triumphantly goes back to work at Jackson Steinem the following day, only to be arrested for insider trading.
Sometime later, Bud confronts Gekko in Central Park. Gekko berates him for his role with Bluestar and accusing him of ingratitude for several of their illicit trades. Following the confrontation, it is revealed that Bud has turned state’s evidence and was wearing a wire to record his encounter with Gekko. He turns the wire tapes over to the authorities, who suggest that he may get a lighter sentence in exchange for helping them make a case against Gekko. Later on, Bud’s parents drive him down FDR Drive towards the Supreme Court Building downtown to answer for the crimes he committed under Gekko’s influence. Carl tells him he did right in saving the airline. The film ends with Bud going up the steps of the courthouse, knowing that while he is likely going to prison and his career is ruined, he now has a clear conscience.
This is a great movie, and well captured by Stone, who himself had a father who was in the business and wanted to make a “business movie”, to look at the bad guys of the system, and how people’s simple needs often outweigh what they feel is right.
CAST
Michael Douglas (Traffic)
Shia LaBeouf (Eagle Eye)
Carey Mulligan (Drive)
Josh Brolin (Planet Terror)
Frank Langella (Masters of The Universe)
Jason Clarke (Terminator Genisys)
Charlie Sheen (Rated X)
Eli Wallach (The Godfather- Part III)
Susan Sarandon (Tammy)
In 2001, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is released from prison after serving eight years for insider trading and securities fraud. Seven years later, Gekko is promoting his new book Is Greed Good?, warning about the coming economic downturn. His estranged daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), runs a small, non-profit news website and is dating Jacob Moore (Shia LaBeouf), a top proprietary trader at Keller Zabel Investments (KZI). Jacob is a protégé of managing director Louis Zabel (Frank Langella), and is trying to raise money for a fusion research project which would create massive amounts of clean energy for the world. Jake is also financially assisting his mother (Susan Sarandon), who has begun a new career selling real estate.
When the recession of 2008 hits, Keller Zabel’s stock loses more than 50% of its value. Louis Zabel tries to arrange a bailout for KZI from other Wall Street banks but is blocked by Bretton James (Josh Brolin), head of rival firm Churchill Schwartz, which Louis Zabel had refused to bail out eight years earlier. Zabel kills himself by jumping in front of a subway train because he cannot handle the stress and embarrassment of losing his company.
A distraught Jacob proposes marriage to Winnie, who accepts, then attends a lecture given by Gordon Gekko and introduces himself afterward. Gekko tells him that Keller Zabel’s collapse started when rumors of the company having toxic debt started to spread. Jacob and Gekko arrange a trade: Jacob will try to reconcile Winnie’s and Gekko’s relationship, and Gekko will gather information to destroy Bretton’s career to seek revenge for Zabel’s suicide.
Jake, aided by Gekko, learns that Bretton James profited from the Keller Zabel collapse. In revenge, Jake spreads rumors about the nationalization of an African oil field owned by Churchill Schwartz. The company loses $120 million, but Bretton offers Jake a job, impressed by his initiative. In his new position, Jake convinces Chinese investors to fund the fusion research by Dr. Masters (Austin Pendleton) he has been supporting. Bretton is impressed even more.
Jake attends a fundraiser with Winnie and pays for a seat at a table for Gekko priced at $10,000. Gekko confronts Bretton about what he did to him and also to Zabel. Bretton mocks him that no one cares what Gekko knows or thinks anymore. Gekko also bumps into Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), and they discuss their shared experience going to jail. Gekko then follows Winnie outside, where she explains why she blames him for everything that went wrong, particularly her brother Rudy’s suicide. Gekko claims he paid for the best therapists and even paid off a drug dealer to stop selling to Rudy, who died from an overdose. Winnie forgives him somewhat.
As the economy starts to crumble, Bretton and business mentor Julius Steinhardt (Eli Wallach) advise federal regulators what drastic actions must be taken. Jake’s mother continues to come to him for large sums of money. Winnie then announces to Jake she is pregnant with a boy. After riding motorcycles together, Bretton reveals to Jake that the Chinese investment is going into solar panels and fossil fuels instead of fusion research, leaving Jake furious and feeling betrayed.
Gekko proposes a solution, using a $100 million trust fund account in Switzerland, which Gekko set up for Winnie in the 1980s, to fund the research and save the company. She signs the money over to Jake, who then entrusts it to Gekko to legitimize the funds for investment in the fusion research company. However, the money never arrives, and Gekko betrays his daughter and Jake by leaving the country with Winnie’s $100 million. Jake realizes that Gekko has been using him to get the money in the account for his own gain. Winnie then tells Jake to leave, no longer trusting him. Gekko is now in London, running a hugely successful hedgefund-like financial company, capitalized by the $100 million. Jake travels there to propose one last trade: Winnie gets her money back, and Gekko can participate in his grandson’s life. Gekko, however, refuses.
Jake pieces together everything from Keller Zabel’s collapse to the economic bailout of Bretton’s company and gives the information to Winnie, telling her that revealing it will bring her website publicity and credibility. Winnie runs the story, and Bretton James is exposed. The investors, including Steinhardt, promptly abandon Bretton and go to Gekko on the back of his $1.1 billion return as Bretton finds himself under intense legal scrutiny by the government. Jake has successfully reunited with Winnie in New York, when late one night Gekko appears and tells them that he deposited $100 million into the fusion research’s account anonymously. He apologizes to them. One year later, Gekko is seen at his grandson Louis’s first birthday party, along with Jacob’s mother and Jacob and Winnie’s friends.
Not quite as good as the first Wall Street, but good enough in presenting a quintessential villain as an expository mouthpiece for the many failings of Western capitalism.
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