Wall Street is the film that won Michael Douglas the Oscar. The Academy was apparently as easily seduced as the viewing public by a man so ruthless as to betray everyone he found it profitable to betray. We notice that the film, much like the character, is no mere vulgarity. It is what people call stylish; the character dresses in a very expensive manner, to let people know. He looks like the statue of a god.
We see two ambitious men at the center of the plot, who resemble each other, & yet must come to destroy one another. The older man is the corporate raider. He understands how Wall St. works, specifically that he can obtain illegal information. He points out that men may love legally or illegally: So also they may acquire legally or illegally. Why should a society that allows the former forbid the latter?
The younger man believes that the pleasant is the good & he has seen, like many who are not rich, that the rich acquire everything pleasant in life: Drugs, women, & wealth… The boy is however too moral to think that if the good is the pleasant, then the reasonable man should calculate which pleasures are safe, which dangerous, & plan accordingly. Promptly, he betrays his father after being seduced by an immoral woman.
What does this father know, the only man living a respectable life – blue collar work, marriage, & old-time friends – that drives him to humiliate his son? He knows he has failed as a father: He has not persuaded his son to live by honest work. Why is honest work important? It has not rewarded him or his company. Perhaps he knows that although injustice seems like the only way to happiness, it leads men to misery.
The ambitious older men is ruthless: He buys & sells people’s ways of life in pursuit of greater wealth. Like all men who see prices go up & down, he knows that the opinions that human beings entertain about the worth of this or that thing are all a madness. He has come to see that conventions must all be illusions. But we notice a weakness in his argument about illegal acquisitions: It has not occurred to this man to acquire the laws, not merely money.
The father is not an ambitious man, but is not powerless. He has the laws on his side. The laws encourage ambition in the few, but they also defend the many decent & respectable people. The ambitious man is angry – he feels betrayed – was his daring not always admired & rewarded? Why do the laws punish him? He took another man’s son as his own.
Oliver Stone’s condemnation of capitalism, with handsome men playing at good & evil-