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Savages

Savages

Released 21 September 2012
Director Oliver Stone
Starring




Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Emile Hirsch, Demian Bichir
Writer(s)

Shane Salerno, Don Winslow, Oliver Stone
Producer(s) Moritz Borman, Eric Kopeloff
Origin United States
Running Time 131 minutes
Genre Crime, drama, thriller
Rating 16
48

Primitive.

If there’s one thing Oliver Stone is known for, it’s his ability to find the beautiful in the obscene, whether in the brutal violence of Platoon or Natural Born Killers, or in the remarkably likeable serial murderers of the latter. With Savages he has failed miserably. Whereas NBK centred on nasty, irredeemable characters, at least they had a bit of depth and were somewhat interesting. Here, we are supposed to be sympathetic towards a privileged moronic ‘Valley Girl’ and an idealistic faux hippy college dropout when their drug manufacturing operation attracts the interests of a brutal Mexican drug cartel.

"Just because I’m telling you this story, doesn’t mean I’m alive at the end of it", laments Blake Lively’s Ophelia (or O as she painfully dubs herself) in the film’s opening scene. By the end of it, we won’t care. O is involved in an unorthodox three-way relationship with malicious Iraq-veteran Chon (Kitsch) and charitable free spirit Ben (Johnson); best friends and marijuana growers responsible for some of the best ganja in the world. But there’s trouble in paradise when the Baja cartel-helmed by Salma Hayek’s Elena- wants a piece of the action and send nefarious hatchet man Lado (Del Toro) to go after the thing the pals love the most (God knows why), O.

Two of the three leads are positively awful. While Blake Lively has proven she has some degree of talent in smaller, supporting roles in films like The Town, she simply cannot carry a lead- no matter how much eye candy she provides. She also delivers one of the cringiest voice-overs ever committed to film. Some of the most offending lines include, "I have orgasms. He has wargasms" and "Chon is cold metal, Ben is warm wood". It really makes you wonder how a veteran like Stone allows this dross to get past the writing desk. Taylor Kitsch brings nothing to his role and should stick to big budget generic action flicks. He’s not even remotely believable as the war-changed enforcer of the operation, Chon. Aaron Johnson fares slightly better; although Stone’s constant references to Ben’s charitable undertakings as an excuse for his actions are epically contrived.

Another of the film’s shortcomings is that we’re never given the reason why the three main characters care so deeply about one another. This is extremely important, as literally the entire premise of the film hangs on their relationship. Why do the guys feel so strongly about O- to the point of being willing to risk their lives and commit horrible atrocities to save her? Where did all this love and loyalty come from? It’s never adequately explained, and the entire film suffers tremendously for it.

On the positive side, the experienced actors do a better job than the young leads. Del Toro is great as the psychotic cartel underboss, bringing a vagrant-like quality to his role that leaves you yearning for his return whenever he disappears from the screen. John Travolta provides mild entertainment as a clown-like DEA agent. Hayek’s Elena is perhaps the film’s most believable character and knocks the nail on its head when she interrupts O’s wax lyrical about the tough life of a rich California girl; "Do all Americans talk like this? Don’t you ever think about your future?" Of course it would be the head of a murderous drug cartel with the sense. It’s a moment of self-observation for Stone towards his characters but it would seem he’s too attached to them to deal them what they deserve.

While it may attempt to put a tragic Shakespearian spin on the War on Drugs issue so prevalent in America at the moment, a groan-worthy ending and dumbfounding dialogue means that Savages inevitably falls flat on its stupid face.

- Cathal Prendergast