Picks and Pans Review: Wall Street

updated 01/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

When Michael Douglas is terrorizing the town in Oliver Stone's funny-money melodrama, he's the scariest movie monster since Faye Dunaway cleaned house in Mommie Dearest. Wheeling and double-dealing as the wicked wizard of Wall Street, Douglas is Satan in a high-priced suit, and he gives the kind of razzle-dazzle performance that defines a career. But if Douglas is the best thing in this movie, he could be the worst thing to happen to it. His performance disturbs the fragile symmetry of Stone's script. As he did in Platoon, director-screenwriter Stone constructs a moral tug-of-war in which good and bad father figures battle over the soul of an innocent. In this case young stockbroker Charlie Sheen betrays his lower-class father, played by his real dad, Martin Sheen, for the glitz of Douglas. But let's face it: Wall Street isn't Vietnam. In Platoon, Stone was foraging in a morally ambivalent, emotionally charged environment. As he tours Wall Street's concrete canyons, Stone doesn't find much more moral complexity than old standbys: Money corrupts, power poisons, and greed is a great equalizer, the same things we learn every time Jim Bakker does Nightline. Only when Douglas addresses a stockholders' meeting does the movie cast any real light on the lure of loot. "Greed is good," Douglas tells the crowd, as rational as he is repellent. But more often, Stone lectures like a dull preacher who banishes all nuance from his sermons. It's as if nobody ever threw the money changers out of the temple and he has just discovered the sin of greed. (R)

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