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“Salvador” (1986) Given Oliver Stone’s perpetual (and justified) indignation with American imperialism in the last century, and his general predilection for politically controversial subjects, it’s no surprise that his directorial debut was about the problems in Central America and, more specifically, the violent civil war in El Salvador that raged from 1980 through 1992, complete with the meddling of the U. Entangled with both leftist guerrillas and the right wing military, the journo soon finds the romanticism of Robert Capa-like war photography is gone and all that’s left are the ugly horrors of war.The picture also co-stars Michael Murphy, John Savage, Elpidia Carrillo, Tony Plana, Cynthia Gibb and Juan Fernandez, and while not as overt as, say, “JFK,” it’s not exactly subtle either.

Sheen, as the naive newbie with his post-“Platoon” baby-face still intact, was a great match for Douglas’s icy villain; their Central Park show-down, as photographed by the incomparable Robert Richardson, reaches near epic/mythic proportions as the two of them trade verbal blows before Gekko pops his top. [A-] “Talk Radio” (1988) Oliver Stone found a compatriot in Eric Bogosian, whose play and performance supplies much of the grunt work in this tightly wound drama.

Essentially a one-man show, Bogosian is aces as Barry Champlain, a shock jock whose passion for spitting vitriol at anyone unfortunate enough to cross his airwaves is matched only by his own self-aggrandized caustic personality.

What could have been an interesting and in-depth look at a tortured musician battling America’s prudish and naive idealism, became two hours of whining rock star shaky footage.

Stone adores deconstructing and critiquing social norms, and has had great success with it previously, but this picture completely missed the mark.

The Gordon Gekko character is an American icon (for better or worse…), numerous pop-culture catchphrases have emerged and endured from the ridiculously quotable script, Michael Douglas spent the rest of his post-Wall Street career doing riffs on the same character (something he’s very good at), and Charlie Sheen became a legitimate box office presence as a result.

Because Wall Street is so much a product of its time (in many of the same ways that a film like “Top Gun” was a product of its time), it’s tough to look back and criticize it for being one thing or not. And that’s what Stone has always excelled at — showcasing men of strong wills going up against one another until someone hits the floor.

Often experimenting with different lenses, film stock, techniques and camera angles, Stone continually finds new ways to shape and tell his stories.

With that in mind, and with “Savages” hitting theaters this weekend, labeled by some (though not us) as a return to form, we’re taking a look back at Stone’s films (excluding documentaries like “South Of The Border,” and those he only wrote the screenplay for, like “Scarface“), determining which ones worked, which ones didn’t, and highlighting the ones we wouldn’t mind seeing again. Seen through the eyes of a downtrodden, irresponsible and unreliable American journalist and photographer (James Woods), the film tracks the hack as he travels to San Salvador with his equally dubious friend (Jim Belushi) in hopes of reviving his career and glory days by capturing footage of the war.

Stone follows Champlain through a sweltering, nerve-wracking day, whirring his camera around the sound booth like a madman but maintaining a firm grip on Bogosian’s exacting performance (despite an over-reliance on sarcasm that typically goes hand in hand with the nervy Jewish film stereotype), while Leslie Hope, Alec Baldwin and Stone regular John C. “Talk Radio” must have been a passion project for Stone, and it shows — this is personal work for both author and filmmaker, but Stone renders it just conventional enough to stay on the rails, speeding to a surprising and saddening conclusion.

Like Barry Champlain, Oliver Stone likes to go all out, but his direction here thankfully shows noticeable restraint.

Oliver Stone loves his country, but he is also its loudest critic.

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