Crime Movies, by Mike Richardson, 01 October 2012

Director: Oliver Stone

Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Taylor Kitsch and Blake Lively

Country: USA

Runtime: 131 min

Release Date:

Language: English

The man behind, W, Salvatore, Wall Street, Wall Street 2, Platoon, Natural Born Killers and a wheel barrow load of stories gets back behind the lens for a back to basics thriller with a druggie slant and that ol’ Oliver style in Savages. Typical of a Stone film, in Savages violence begets more violence as two best friends / marijuana business partners are challenged for control of their idyllic strip of Laguna Beach in California by a powerful drug cartel.It’s a rough diamond (for Hollywood) thriller based on the novel of the same name by Don Winslow. The screenplay was written by Shane Salerno, Winslow and Stone himslf.

Savages

Savages

Savages sees hippy surfer drug dealers (good guys) Ben the super talented botanist Buddhist (Aaron Taylor-Johnson seen most recently as the tomcat Count Vronsky in Anna Karenina) and “the muscle” in the form of former Navy Seal and ex-mercenary Chon (Taylor Kitsch most recently ignore in John Carter and Battleship) who have built a mini empire growing and supplying prime marijuana. They share their hearts and a luxury cliff top pad (and loins) with blonde babe O, short for Ophelia (Blake Lively).

Paradise is lost when crazed villains from an (evil) Mexican drugs cartel (led by Salma Hayek and her enforcer Benicio Del Toro, both joyously over the top) decide to merge / take over the pretty boys’ business. To show they mean business, they kidnap O, and corrupt DEA agent Dennis (John WIG Travolta) thickens the plot, playing both sides and having no truck with the law he supposedly represents.
And things quickly escalate

The script of Savages spices up the back-stabbing and betrayal with breathless TV-lite sex scenes between the good-looking leads, but it feels that Stone has had enough of making films for grown-ups and has gone back to “crowd pleasing” instead. Savages is directed with typical gusto by Stone, but he turns out to be his own worst enemy as if he can’t stand the lowbrow audience he is serving. This was not a problem with the other off-reservation Stone film, U-Turn, in which he set out to make a film for him, and while it wasn’t a perfect movie it was consistent. For instance Savages should have trimmed back (dare I say lost) the voiceover narration that errs towards unintentional comedy, such as when the heroine compares her two lovers to cold metal and warm…wood. Don’t believe the depths that it can drop to (Stone has won Oscars for scripts in the past remember) choice quotes include “I had orgasms, Chon had WARgasms” and “Ben was the Buddhist, but Chon was the baddest.” Razzie alert!

Savages is constantly in real danger of all going a bit Spinal Tap.

Savages has its moments and is worth seeing for entertaining supporting turns from Hayek, in a perfect audition for a bond villain and Del Toro playing a twenty year older version of the cartel soldier from License to Kill. The film never holds the audience as the dialogue is (so) consistently bad, the principal acts never quite gel and in the end the flashy direction of the Savages just masks a poor film.

For all its bluster and Oliver Stone, Savages ends up like a really expensive episode of CSI: dirty Orange County.

Savages Trailer

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