Oliver Stone (JFK, Platoon) has had an interesting career to say the least. Very up and down with classic films like Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street and Natural Born Killers, middling efforts like Heaven & Earth and U Turn and then he turns out lemons like Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Alexander and World Trade Center. The guy certainly isn’t predictable. Not even in the topics he covers from political leaders (JFK, Nixon), to sports (Any Given Sunday) to 9/11 (World Trade Center) to war (Platoon). Whatever he chooses to do it is never superficial. Stone has now moved on to examine the drug trade and the Mexican drug cartel. The guy makes you sit up and take notice to whatever he does, that is for sure.
While this will not rank up there with his strongest films, it certainly was better than I expected. I must admit that I rolled my eyes a little when I discovered that the cast included Salma Hayek, Blake Lively, John Travolta and Hollywood’s latest whipping boy (due to his big budget failure with John Carter) Taylor Kitsch. Not much success in a cast made up a bloated and almost caricature of himself Travolta, a pseudo reality television show girl in Lively and Hayak, who seems better know for her physical attributes and breast feeding another woman’s child than her acting abilities. Add to this Stone’s dodgy reputation behind the camera lately and you don’t have a film that seems to add up to a winner.
This all being said, I was pleasantly surprised by Savages. It is not Oscar material and is much too long, but it was enjoyable. There were also some holes in the logic of it all though that is kind of nitpicking on my part. While it might be strange to say it was the brutal violence that kept me riveted. That along with the stunning camerawork and visuals.
The story is a rather left of center one with two small time drug dealers and best friends, Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson) sharing the same girl, O (Blake Lively). The threesome, which seems to work well enough despite the dysfunctional set up, is disrupted once they decide to get out of the drug business. All good for them to decide to get out of the dangerous and illegal industry though a murderous Mexican cartel led by a vicious woman named Elena (Salma Hayek) is not about to let the two guys and their beloved weed just disappear. Elena and her heavy Lado (Benicio Del Toro) decide to hit the guys where it hurts and kidnap O. Not about to let their love be abused, tortured or even killed, Chon and Ben now will attempt to get her back anyway possible.
A dark and violent film laced with sex, drugs and rock and roll that also has moments of black humour, Savages certainly warrants its 13 and over rating. For adult audiences it is an interesting summer ride.