Savages (2012)


We’re comin’ for you, baby

Director: Oliver Stone

Cast: Benicio del Toro, Salma Hayek, Blake Lively, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, John Travolta, Demian Bichir

Genre: Action, Drama, Crime

Type: Mainstream

Running Time 131 mins

Rated R

Savages. What a good title. The film Savages is based on a novel by Don Winslow, and has been adapted to screen by the infamous Oliver Stone.  There is a strong cast with a good mix of old and new (see John Travolta and Taylor Kitsch). The plot focuses on two young marijuana entrepreneurs who find themselves in a hard situation when they refuse an offer from a major drug cartel.

Firstly, it bothers me that Blake Lively was cast as O. While she does fit the criteria for your typical California beach blonde beauty, I personally find it hard to watch and/or listen to her. Maybe sometime down to the line, this might change (with help from a good acting coach and some life experience), but for right now, the only appeal she has for me is her good fashion sense. It confuses me that she has actually in fact been praised for her performance and has been described as “the brightest spot in the mixed reviews” (Stone, IBT.com). Secondly, it is strange to me that the Macguffin of the flick is indeed O. The plot is driven by Ben (Taylor-Johnson) and Chon’s (Kitsch) singular desire to get her back. Surely this unusual relationship is meant to make the audience go “Huh?” However, it is interesting to note that while all three of them are in love, there are different types of love involved in their relationship. It is my opinion, based on the last few scenes out in the desert, that O loved Ben the most, and Chon loved O. Elena (Hayek) proposed that Ben and Chon would never love O more than they love each other. And O says she loves them both but in different ways where Chon is rough, aggressive (“ I have orgasms, he has war-gasms”) and Ben is Buddhist, sensitive, and peaceful.

Outside of this strange relationship, the action is violent, graphic and unrelenting, especially considering Chon’s war background and the assistance of his sniper friends. There were also a few plot twists and surreptitious, mutinous plans at work that will interest an audience who wants to see some cleverness at work.

While watching it, I kept thinking of ways this or that could have been done differently, and I could in fact see this as Tarantino film.  There were parts of it that simply fell flat, either in dialogue, mise-en-scéne or cinematography. Oliver Stone is one of my favourite directors, so perhaps I had my expectations a little high. But guys, this is the same guy who brought us Natural Born Killers (1994). I suppose I was hoping it would be a little more like that. To be honest, the trailer was better than the actual movie for me. I’m just saying.  I guess we have to keep in mind that Stone is also the one who brought us that wretched Alexander (2004). You may now pause from reading this review to reflect back to Colin Farrell and his blonde hair. Now laugh. Good.  Carry on reading.

The Long and Short: All in all, this movie has something for everyone. Love, crime, and action tied up with a savage-looking bow (see what I did there?).

My Recommendation: Read the novel first, then rent the DVD.

Favourite Scene: Aaron Johnson’s philanthropic character ,Ben, is forced to kill a guy. Poor thing.

Verdict:  C+

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