I’m probably not the only one who suspects the credit crunch was brought on by men who grew up idolizing Gordon Gekko.
When director Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” came out in 1987, nobody wanted to be the Charlie Sheen character who learns a cautionary lesson. Everyone wanted to be Gekko, the sleek and sexy lizard king in pinstripes played by Michael Douglas.
Like other great movie villains, Gekko was pure charisma on the screen. His powers of persuasion were mesmerizing, especially during his famous greed-is-good speech.
“Greed in all of its forms — greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge — has marked the upward surge of mankind,” he roared, delivering a piece of cinematic rhetoric that sounds like a mission statement for the nonsense we’ve come to loathe about the real Wall Street.
Now the word is that Douglas and Stone are teaming up again for “Wall Street 2,” a prospect that oozes timely anticipation. Will Gekko return to his scheming ways? Or will he use his knowledge for good? If Joseph P. Kennedy could go from being a financial wheeler-dealer to an SEC chairman in the 1930s, why not his cinematic heir?
It’s slightly depressing to hear that Hollywood is planning remakes of ‘80s hits like “Footloose,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street ” and “The Karate Kid,” in part because those hits seemingly have nowhere to go but back to the original premise. The on-screen kids who couldn’t dance, sleep peacefully or defend themselves in those movies are likely going to cover the same ground all over again.
But a “Wall Street” update is creative strip-mining at its most intriguing. It has the potential to be brilliant, like a “Godfather II,” or misbegotten, like a “Godfather III.” At the very least, it requires taking an artistic gamble, not just cashing in on a brand name.
As a character, Gordon Gekko has stayed alive in the popular imagination. How would he fit into today’s economic climate? It’s a question that seems worth the investment of a full-price ticket. Greed is good — for life, love, knowledge or intelligent movie sequels.