Be Wary of Savages

SAVAGES
MPAA Rating: R
Run Time: 130 mins
Common Sense Rating: NSFK (NOT SUITABLE FOR KIDS)

“There’s something wrong with your love story, baby.”
Elena (to O)
(Salma Hayek)

Film director Oliver Stone has certainly made an impact on cinema. Directing classics such as Platoon, JFK, Natural Born Killers, & Born on the Fourth of July, Stone can be included as one of the greatest directors of all time. This time, Stone returns releasing by releasing Savages, which appears to be a drag out action film following two independent drug producers as they go against a very powerful Mexican drug cartel on the surface. But what is it really? {Spoiler Alert [to the question]: Definitely not something you want to take your kids to!}

Ben (Aaron Johnson), a pacifistic cannabis producer & Chon (Taylor Kitsch), an ex Navy SEAL & Ben’s best friend run a very successful business by growing & selling weed, with Ben as the brains of the operation & Ben as the muscle. Following the two friends are followed by their ‘one-of-a-kind’ love, Ophelia. (Think Y Tu Mamá También.) As the money roll in as they live in Southern California, the threesome are living on Cloud 9. That is, until a very powerful drug cartel known as the Mexican Baja Cartel approach the duo with a proposition to become partners so that the Cartel can have access to their networking & their Cali-famous weed growing techniques. Feeling disrespected, Cartel mastermind, Elena (Salma Hayek), along with her head enforcer, Lado, orchestrate O’s kidnapping, which is merely triggers the start of a deadly game of escalation, with O’s life being the main prize on the line.

The acting talents of Benicio Del Toro & Salma Hayek are on full display in this movie. Del Toro is simply brilliant as he captures a menacing, calculating, & sometimes moustache-twirling villain. His performance made Lado very believable and perhaps one of the scariest villains ever seen on film. Hayek nails the Queen Bee angle down. When she was on screen, she was able to act in such a way that made her onscreen partners better. Though they played intimidating characters, they also had weaknesses. They were able to play their weaknesses without compromising the overall character. If you are looking for great performances of villainous and downright evil human characters, you will find them in Del Toro’s Lado & Hayek’s Elena.

Performances also worth mentioning are the chemistry between Aaron Johnson & Taylor Kitsch (yes, the Battleship & John Carter Taylor Kitsch). Aaron Johnson is the stronger actor of the duo as we see him take Ben through the rough & rugged world of the drug trade. While Taylor Kitsch did a passable job as the Navy Seal, the duo was very believable as the Odd Couple of Cannabis, due to their chemistry in each scene. Other performances to note are John Travolta as Dennis, a federal agent, Demián Bichir as Alex, and Emile Hirsch as Spin. The camera placing throughout the film was done really well. The colors were vibrant in the beach scenes, but dark, tough, and grainy when needed. The final part of the extended end sequence is very beautiful and should not be missed by any observant film enthusiast.

Despite great talent over a beautifully painted backdrop, this movie has violent spells of M.I.S. (Movie Identity Syndrome). There are times it felt like Blue Crush, Y Tu Mamá También, Scarface, & The Hurt Locker, just to name a few. In the process, the movie sometimes is like that friend who thinks he’s funny but he isn’t and doesn’t know he’s not funny. Some of the dialogue was just outright terrible. In these moments, Savages could have been better off pasting in the clip from The Avengers where Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) tells Loki (Tom Hiddleston) “Yeah, it takes us a little while to get any traction; I’ll give you that one.” That perfectly described the story of the movie. Disappointing start but worked it out as the film went on.

Blake Lively’s performance of “O” was very inconsistent throughout the movie. In the beginning, her performance was atrocious. Instead of this girlfriend, she just seemed like some random drunk girl on MTV’s Real World. Her narration was overdone and unnecessary. However, after she is kidnapped, she’s a bit more consistent. But even still, she has moments that will leave you putting your hands on your head saying, “O no, O!” In related manner, possible character developments were either delayed or missed completely. It’s only after O is kidnapped that we learn more about her character. Had the audience learned this sooner, the audience might’ve cared a little more about her kidnapping. Another very big story question (that you can plainly tell from the trailers) is how can two guys see the same girl without cutting each other’s throats & what made them so close? If you’re looking for the answer to that question, you won’t find it in this movie. The story is much like Blake Lively’s performance, terrible in the beginning but once it gains traction, it’s certainly a ride that will take you in.

I don’t always include an in-depth warning in my movie reviews, (only other time I’ve done this was in a prior review, A Word of Caution Before Boarding (Going to See) Prometheus: A Movie Review on Prometheus) but when I do, I’m really serious. Parents should use extreme caution before allowing kids or teens under 17 from seeing this movie. [And by extreme caution, I mean do not allow your kid/teen to see this movie. This goes beyond the fact that the obvious movie is about drug cartels entitled Savages] It’s a very intensely graphic movie. The movie begins with human heads on the floor. Yea, it’s that kind of movie. The movie features spicy language, a couple acts of sex (all within the first 15 minutes), nudity, drug use, & very extreme acts of violence, including a torture scene that is arguably one of the grisliest scenes in recent cinema. With everything except videotape (they use computer cameras & cell phones), Savages truly earns its R rating. Again, if you’re under 17, or the least bit squeamish, DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE.

Savages is a movie that is just like a junkyard. It is littered with moments of cinematic gems. The majority of the acting in conjunction with well constructed backgrounds that happen to land on a narrative on the upswing really shows the talent of Oliver Stone. Unfortunately, these gems are overshadowed by clumps of gratuitous crap, whether it is largely nonsensical dialogue or absurd plot direction. If you are a huge film enthusiast or a fan of Oliver Stone’s movies, then give this movie a try. Otherwise, you run the risk of this manic maniac movie being a massive waste of your time. C

Fade to black…

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2 responses to “Be Wary of Savages

  1. Pingback: Recent Action Drama In A Lawless State: A Review on Lawless | Le Cinéma Mercurial·

  2. Pingback: 5 Disappointing Movies of Summer 2012 | Le Cinéma Mercurial·

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