Savages (2012)

Savages (2012) – So Oliver Stone is known primarily for political films like JFK, Nixon, and W. Or films with a message like Platoon or Wall Street. But sometimes Stone just goes wild and crazy and that’s when he gives us movies like U-Turn or, more to the point, Natural Born Killers. Natural Born Killers was a pretty straightforward Quentin Tarantino script (well as straightforward as Tarantino scripts ever are anyway). When Stone got ahold of it it became something else entirely. It’s been characterized (both in a good and bad way) as a multi-million dollar student film. The film stock changes seemingly every other shot and the movie is so fast-cut it can be dizzying. Of course the over-the-top violence is what caught most people’s attention. Stone’s last movie was the rather obnoxious sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. The trailer for Savages seemed to indicate that he might be ready to go crazy again…

O (Blake Lively) is the girlfriend of two drug dealers named Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch). They have a very successful marijuana business in Southern California and have what they consider to be the perfect three-way relationship. Everyone’s happy. Except when the cartels approach them, they respectfully decline. Elena (Salma Hayek), the head of the cartel, doesn’t take it so respectfully. To teach them a lesson about respect she has her henchman Lado (Benecio Del Toro) kidnap O. Rather than play ball, Ben and Chon decide to go on a roaring rampage of revenge to get O back. Meanwhile crooked DEA Agent Dennis (John Travolta) is trying to play both sides to his own advantage. Things happen.

Savages is not a case of Oliver Stone going crazy as I had hoped. There is some over-the-top violence, sure (though not as much as the trailers make you think), but this film lacks the urgency of his crazier flicks from the 90s. It’s not an epic like some of his political films. It doesn’t haven’t any relevant message like some of his other films. Basically this is a movie that seems to play to none of Oliver Stone’s strengths. It’s pretty boring for several stretches. I feel kind of sorry for Taylor Kitsch. Between John Carter of Mars, Battleship, and Savages this must have really seemed like his year. Instead all three of those movies have tanked (very undeservedly in John Carter’s case). I continue to like Blake Lively, even when she’s not doing much and “not doing much” seems to sum up her role in this flick. She has some… quality or whatever that makes her very watchable (beyond her obvious attractiveness). Del Toro plays an intensely sleazy role that probably belongs in a better movie. This movie has a fake-out ending that pissed me off (but would have pissed me off more if it hadn’t been a fake out) and was just all-around an unsatisfying experience. You’re probably better off skipping this one…

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