Savages

The lead story here, undeniably, is that Oliver Stone is up to his old tricks.

“Savages” is old school Stone. It’s a story with a cast of crazy and colorful characters, caught up in violent situations, soaked in drugs and sex, performed by a great cast who all seem to be relishing their deliciously cheesy roles, and wrapped up in Stone’s unmistakable, inimitable directorial stylings.

I don’t know if I can call it good, but it sure as Hell is fun.

Ben and Chon (sic) are high-tech, major league marijuana dealers living on the California coast. Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is the brains behind the operation. Dual majoring in botany and business, he has skill to grow plants that are genetically modified and specially grown to achieve supreme potency. Chon (Taylor Kitsch) is the muscle. After serving tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he has the killer instinct, the knowledge, and the special forces contacts to protect the business. They serve as diametric contrast to each other: Ben is the happy, hippie, buddhist who wants to resolve things peacefully whenever possible. Chon is the violent, might makes right type.

Both share the love of “O”. Ophelia (Blake Lively) is their stoner love interest, shared between the two weed lords in a modern-day ménage à trois. Ophelia also narrates occasionally, as evidenced in the trailer below

When offered a “deal” (think hostile takeover) by a Mexican cartel, Chon advocates they counter with an immediate, violent response, but Ben sees an opportunity to get out of the business altogether. When the two offer to freely hand over their contacts, territories and techniques, but without their personal services, the cartel takes offence. In order to force the duo into service, they kidnap O.

Of course, instead of becoming compliant, Ben and Chon retaliate. They turn “Savage”.

The cartel which captured O is headed by Elena Sánchez, played by Salma Hayek as a vindictive, cold-blooded, ruthless woman. In her command is Benicio del Toro, who authors a creepy, lecherous, semi-unintelligble henchman. And on the periphery is John Travolta as a crooked DEA agent waist deep in the morass of all of this mess. Hayek tries to freeze people in their tracks with her frigidity, Del Toro uses his natural abilities to give folks the heebie jeebies, and Travolta is a natural as a rat/weasel. None of them are asked to stretch, but you could look at the flip side of that and say that they’re all well cast. Each of the three seem to be enjoying playing the parts they’ve been given, and that, in turn lends an enjoyable air to the proceedings.

Not that that’s sorely needed or anything, as the movie certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously. There were times, especially early, when the narration almost gave me the giggles. Bon mots such as “I have orgasms, he has wargasms”, and “Drugs are supposed to be bad, but in a bad, bad world, they’re actually good” left me wishing I brought a notebook in order to scribble them down as I watched. “Savages” is loaded with them. The situation is crazy, too. The main characters are millionaire weed dealers who are generally good guys, because they try to never hurt anyone, but have to go on a rampage when their shared girlfriend is stolen. They have to try to get at an evil matriarch protected by a psychotic scumbag whose assassin cover is a gardening crew.  “Savages” is never a “So bad it’s good” movie, but it’s not too far down the road, either. The story is relatively straight, but the characters and situations are crazy and colorful, to say the least.

The icing on this cinematic delectable is the directorial stylings of Mr Oliver Stone. As director and co-writer of the screenplay, Stone’s fingerprints are all over this – in a good way, if you’re a fan. While not as showy as say, “Natural Born Killers”, you’re still in store for some sudden dutch angles, black and white, scene transitions straight out of Salvador Dali, and in one prominent instance, even a rewind. Oh yeah, baby. It should be pointed out as a warning sign and selling point both. Depending on where you shake out on the heavy-handed artistry of everybody’s favorite conspiracy theorist, you’re either in for a treat or some torture.

Personally, I’m a big fan. And as such, I enjoyed “Savages” very, very much. But there’s good reason why it’s currently at 53% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s not for everyone, and it would be extraordinarily easy to put on a critics hat and point out the ludicrous elements. I mean, they’re there in abundance. But if you’re a fan of Oliver Stone, and you like this lineup of performers, or if you just want to see a flashy, fun drug warfare romp… “Savages” is the movie for you.

B+

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89 thoughts on “Savages

  1. Saw the movie a few days ago… While I did enjoy it, I agree with everything you said here about it being unrealistic. And as for the dialogue, well, I also found it hard to take seriously at times. But it was still entertaining! Great review!

  2. I know a lot of people hate on Oliver Stone, but wow I love the guy’s work. JFK, Any Given Sunday, Platoon… this guy has a list of major achievements, and I’m excited about watching this movie.

  3. I just finished the movie a couple of hours ago… one of the best movies I’ve seen so far in 2012. I love the plot, the actors, and hell even the actions. I thought the graphic scenes were a great touch to the movie, I guess it adds a bit of realism to drug trades. Would definitely purchase it when it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray! :D

    • It’s a fun one, I had fun with it. I think it’s got a dark horse chance to make my top ten for the year, just because I had so much fun. :DGlad to hear you liked it too, Jessica!! :D

  4. For some reason I was not impressed with the preview, it did not thrill me to go to the theatres (spend money) and see it! Why? Something turned me off when I saw the dynamic between Blake Lively and Salma Hayek (maybe old Hollywood is out to get New Hollywood?) but I lack to see the good chemistry between them and again the
    Crime Drama theme of the unbreakable bond between three friends a little weak and boring, but that is just my first impression of it. Great blog by-the-way!

  5. Sounds a tiny bit ridiculous, and even cheesy as you pointed out, but, well, also… pretty fun :D It might be a good laugh with friends on a weekend, thanks for he recommendation!

  6. Solid review my friend. This is my first time to your blog and I like what I see. Hopefully the new Dark Knight will be awesome next week! Oliver Stone has made some real stinkers as of late but his talent cannot be denied. I do movie reviews and Top 10′s on my blog as well. I look forward to hearing your take on new movies…take care;)

    • Thanks, Mike, I appreciate the compliment!

      Yeah, the Dark Knight Rises has everybody drooling. Let’s see if it can live up to expectations, you know?

      Meanwhile, here… Stone created a highly watchable, if undeniably comical flick. Check it out…

  7. I wanted to see this movie at the moment I’ve heard about it, mostly because of Blake Lively. *:* And thanks to your great review, I think this could really be a good try :D

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