IN "WALL STREET," Oliver Stone's new picture, you will see the evil, capitalistic impulses of man. Towards the end, you will see the self-righteous impulses of liberal finger-waggers. It's hard to tell which is worse.
At least the former makes for entertaining cinema. Buying, selling, insider trading -- these are a few of Wall Street's favorite things. And nobody does it better than Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). His office, hanging high in the concrete jungle, hums with greenback moving-and-shaking, and its corporate-raiding occupant has a coffer of Ivan Boesky-speak one-liners designed to keep him above the rat pack. "It's all about bucks," Gekko says flatly. "And the rest is conversation." It goes on -- from "Every battle is won before it's fought" to an outright "Greed is good" speech before a group of spellbound shareholders.
Young broker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), hustles his way into Gekko's empire and enters the make-a-killing world. He swiftly becomes a Gekko protege' -- big accounts, big insider moves and designer sex with city princess Darien (Daryl Hannah). Darien decorates Bud's fancy new apartment with junk retrieve' and makes the kind of vapid comments about art and fast-lane living you might expect from a Manhattan mermaid.
Stone has taken the good-evil struggle of "Platoon" and transplanted it. That impulse rages within ambitious, naive Bud. He skitters between the Darth-Vader-raiders (Douglas and arch-rival Sir Larry Wildman, played with sullen world-weariness by Terence Stamp) and the Obi Wan Kenobe hard-working nice guys (Martin Sheen, of course, as Bud's blue-collar father, and Hal Holbrook as Bud's brokerage boss Lou Mannheim, a sort of Deep Throat with a day job).
The younger Sheen, who walked wide-eyed through Stone's Vietnam, walks with similar innocence through "Wall Street." And with his three-piece determination he's perfect as a greenhorn yuppie playing with the big guns. But the performance medal has to go to Douglas. As Gekko, he charms, disarms and disdains with equal ease -- and profits. His role may remind you of his father Kirk's similar way with white-collar snake-charmers.
The film is best when Gekko and Fox power it up, but "Wall Street" falls into the red when Stone's heavy-handed moralizing takes over. Stewart Copeland's music is appropriately contemporary and dehumanized, and Robert Richardson's camera gets its sleeves dirty, jostling elbows with the ambitious in overstuffed elevators, closing in on frantic brokers on the floor and at their word processors, then flying high above that famous, infamous skyline.
WALL STREET (R) --
At area theaters.