An impatient young stockbroker, Bud Fox (Sheen), with no moral grounding and a desire to get rich whatever the cost trades inside information and allows himself to be moulded into the fat-cat image of high-flyer Gordon Gekko (Douglas). But Bud has harder lessons to learn...
Oliver Stone's indictment of the grasping yuppie ethos of the '80s took no prisoners, blasting fast-talking brokers, inside traders, corporate raiders, interior decorators, and sushi eaters in one energetic assault. Ironically, the domination of Michael Douglas, brilliantly bad-assed as arch-villain despoiler Gordon Gekko, so inspired wannabe Gekkos that the very lowliest of City twerps embraced his sartorial style from slicked-back hair to braces and his epigrams passed into the language: "Greed is Good." "Lunch is for wimps." "If you need a friend, get a dog." "I create nothing; I own." "If you're not inside, you're outside." "Money isn't lost or gained, it's simply transferred." "A Player, or Nothing." "Money never sleeps, pal."
This credo infects bushy-tailed broker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) with a mania. In his rush for the bucks he sidesteps loyalties, ethics and finally the law to acquire the penthouse, the offshore holdings and the Italian designer-dressed girl of his dreams. Fortunately for the sake of an upright moral he stays too long at the ball and gets turned back into a sadder but wiser pumpkin.
Buddy's rite of passage through the financial jungle is absorbing and even exciting even if you haven't a clue what the financial panjandrums are talking about half the time. Subtle this isn't; most of the characters, whether Bud's Honest, Hard Working manual labourer father (although played beautifully by Martin Sheen), Gekko's vacant wife (Sean Young), the Ethical Stockbroker (Hal Holbrook, presumably based on Stone's stockbroker father, to whom the film is dedicated), the Hotshot Lawyer (James Spader) or Bud's Greedy Tootsie (Daryl Hannah) are easily assimilated caricatures. Nevertheless Stone takes in a lot of plot and his many targets at an enthralling pace with style and Douglas's shark is a killer.
As with Platoon, Stone captures the horrific essence of an environment (in this case it's not the Vietnamese, but the financial jungle, with it's electronic ticker-tape and pidgin English) and transfers it to us without the need for prior knowledge. Dazzling filmmaking.