Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Wall Street" (1987) - Movie Review

The success of “Wall Street” is the way in which it buys the audience into this scheme. It also succeeds in how it does not let them see the darkness of it so easily until the world crumbles under the young hero of this film Buddy Fox (Charlie Sheen). The system exists and has destroyed several and it continues to do so. The film happened in 1985 holds same till date in an ugly manner to be scared of. For someone devoid of the stocks, finance and the whole dirty nine yards of it, I got educated in the hazy way any one would be getting into this system by director Oliver Stone.

The movie follows the traditional three act screenplay and yet is not a cliche. It has the upcoming youth Buddy aspiring to be working with his hero Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Gekko played by Douglas cuts through the chase. As much as he is devious in his actions, there is an honesty when he is with Buddy. Buddy has been trying to get a meeting scheduled with Gekko for several days with no reply. Gekko does not have time for a small time broker in a firm doing research and suggesting it to their clients. Buddy finds the window of opportunity identifying the birthday of Gekko, his first insider information to the doors of facade of prizes. The second step is to succeed in the meeting by impressing Gekko and he sells his second insider information given by his dad (Martin Sheen) union leader for an airline company Blue Star. These two wealthy of information gets him onboard with his hero. The work begins.

Buddy rises and spikes high within quick span of time. Gekko sees him as the protege. The system itself is a broken system built on guesses and games. People like Gekko see this as the smart players in it. If gambling is legal, then why it is putting hard work to do best gambling is illegal? The idea of stocks and its buying and selling is far beyond my realm of comprehension but there is something uniquely sleazy about it. It spins a cranky machine and the work of it is not of much use other than the existence of the parts. The machine needs to be reconstructed or put to rest but Gekko are the people who provides band aid bad fixes to keep it running as it is their livelihood.

Buddy in his third act redemption questions Gekko “How much money is enough?”. With billions, millions and hundreds of thousands of dollars in play what is the eagerness to go after further more? If you have the money, you will find ways to spend it. One could say the expensive arts Gekko buys but that too he sees it as business and talks proudly on the money it elevated since he bought it. Gekko is there for the game and the adrenaline after a while. Money is morale boost than the value of it in the world. Gekko’s high is the Wall Street.

Oliver Stone provides an insight just enough to be wary of to the ignorant person like me out there. In a film wherein the corruption and scandal is so high, there are only few places there is mention of legality. In the end it ties the knot of the cause and effect but the working environment of this business conveniently provides a blanket on this criminal persecution. There is no stealing, no killing, no blood shed and pure transfer of information. Hence there is no crime. The crime scene is nothing but a regular day at work. This disguise it poses and the lives it ruins under it are shared but not shown. We see cleverness in Gekko and much appreciate rather disgusted by his manipulations. But that is how the stock works.

“Wall Street” is the entertaining thriller which should scare you because this is the world you live in and this is how you become numb and oblivious to the situation. Stone pokes that part of you and see how dangerous this can be in the big scheme of things. Companies destroyed, workers out of work and it becomes the genesis of a much bigger wider roots for greater crimes around the country. This he gives so with the balance of a young man disturbed by the glory and glamour of this profession.

Michael Douglas can be an easy player and he plays this man as a perfect egomaniac gloating every moment of his achievements. His narcissism is charismatic and attracts despite that. Charlie Sheen sits there and acts as the puppy Buddy being groomed, praised and disappointed. Martin Sheen does the right job of the ethical and righteous focus to this story. At the end of the film he says “Do not buy and sell, Create”. Too bad “Wall Street” is not famous for that line but for Gekko’s “Greed for the lack of better word, is good”. That tells so much about the world we live in.

P.S. : “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” is in theatres and I hope (and eager) to see it soon enough.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"The American" (2010) - Movie Review

“The American” takes a traditional assassin thriller and does nothing but put some art to it. It does not glorify the killing machine and the killer does not look for sympathy. He yearns for a calmness as any middle aged assassin would aspire for from what we have learned from the education of Hollywood killer films. If George Clooney claims to have selected this role based on the screenplay then I would have to seriously doubt his sense of observation as the screenplay cannot be more straightforward, simple and a bee line inappropriate in this story. I think he believed in the director and the meeting should have been in that place in Italy where the film happens. May be Anton Corbijn is a good marketing person or his casting director Beatrice Kruger is.

Jack or Edward (George Clooney) has no one to trust and he begins to hate this game. As the film opens an attempt is made on his life as he spends in the hidden snow land of Sweden. He flees to Italy and his employer Pavel (Johan Leysen) asks him to, you guessed it “lay low”. Jack does so in a little small hill town where the clouds can kiss its shadows and it is not the place Pavel mentioned. Edward/Jack does the usual, practicing target shots in a serene hidden place, make some connection with a priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and develop romantic interest with a prostitute (Violente Placido). A typical assassin getaway.

There is an elegance in “The American” which in its used up plot has a charm and depth in the blankness of this killer. George Clooney is an interesting man. In his tempting sharp look, he has a deserving tiredness. His character is getting old for this business as any one would in any career. They would hit the point for some sanity and control. Clooney’s Jack is utterly devoid of permanent relationships. Trust is not the word which runs smooth in his line of work.

The man gets one last job and this is not to take a contract but to provide a perfect equipment for a sufficiently well versed new comer. The scenes with Mathilda (Thekla Reuten) are nothing short of tension. Both killers know that anytime they will turn on each from either of their employers. There is a particularly impressive scene wherein Edward takes her to his “happy” place for testing the rifle. There she turns her back and walks to place her target and Edward looks at her with a suspicion to pull the trigger which is so precise but dismisses. Then she lets him take a shot near her to gage the loudness and performance. This is a tango like no other in the emotions of these two people running through tension, calmness and tons of doubt.

Corbijn wants completion in the simplest act of a scene. He waits for the automatic door to be shut and an arrangement of bullets to be immaculate. I think Clooney wanted to make something new out of a worn out character. As the rule book for contract killers goes, one should not speak and Jack speaks sparsely yet he is able to make a connection with Clara the prostitute with statements speaking clearer than silence. Clara sees the mystery in him and thus the attraction is imminent. Also forgot the fact that it is George Clooney but she is devilishly beautiful.

“The American” could have been a fashion show of beautiful people but it makes them beautiful believable people with secrets and torment. Jack’s trouble is in the misery of his existence in being aloof, completely. As the adrenaline spiked down and the grey hairs caught up to him, he has truly understood the nature of living. As much as cold and brutal he has led his life when “The American” happens, his conscience has grown out.

Even in the soothing sceneries of the Italy achieved with a lovely cinematography by Martin Ruhe, there is a hand of simplicity. In the whole scheme of the film, this nature of being there and not becoming a great statement or trying to make one moulds this predictable twists into forgiving ones. We are not bothered by the end of this man but the story of his intrigues us. Death is at every corner in this stone road town and his day runs by with watchful eyes and restless walks. While his job demands this, for some reason I believe Jack did it without fear of death when he began his career and now he does with every bit of his heart.