Pot growers Ben and Chon face off against the Mexican drug cartel who kidnapped their shared girlfriend. (IMDB)
Writers: Shane Salerno, Don Winslow, Oliver Stone, Don Winslow (novel)
Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch and Blake Lively
Runtime: 131 Minutes
Popcorn Score: Medium Popcorn with Butter
There are almost as many things in the movie “Savages” that I disliked as I liked, but not quite as many so I suppose in completion this will be a favorable review of Oliver Stone’s new drug thriller. I will start out with the positives because that is the type of person I am…or at least the type of person that I thrive to be.
First, and I am somewhat stealing this take from someone I believe in Entertainment Weekly, but, it is a relief that the very talented Stone finally stepped out of the realm of making current event movies mainly about presidents. I have to classify that statement a little by saying that I am glad that he is making a narrative mostly fictional film, because this issue although not based on any specific person or event, is very much a topical subject these days. I found his directing of the film to be mostly favorable and exciting and even surprising.
Next I believe that most performances in the movie were very solid. After seeing Aaron Johnson star as young John Lennon in “Nowhere Boy” and then transform himself in the lead role in the mostly entertaining “Kick Ass” I see him as a rising young star in Hollywood. He will star later this year alongside Keira Knightly and Jude Law in the Russian period piece “Anna”It is truly a shame, for his own sexual sake, that he married so young (23) to “Nowhere Boy’s” much older (cougar?) director, Sam Taylor-Wood (48) He plays the part of Ben, a Master Marijuana grower/philanthropist along with his best friend and business partner Chon played by Taylor Kitsch, most recently seen by about 500 million less people than Disney hoped would in the mega-bust John Carter. I would say Kirsch bounces back giving a convincing performance as the much harder ex-military, muscle of the pair’s often illegal business.
The story is very engaging. Set in a modern day sexy Laguna beach, with So-Cal and Mexican Mansions as its backdrop as a drug movie it will undoubtedly be compared to the likes of Scarface, Blow, Fear and Loathing etc… (As a straight drama, it would compare the first two more than the latter) but truthfully I believe it falls short off of all of those. But not by too much. Without making it sound too simple, it is a movie about two different drug “gangs” holding hostage of something the other wants, in order to achieve the upper hand. The story is strengthened by a 3rd party informant working both sides, in the form of a DEA agent played by John Travolta. It is a modern age drug movie. I really enjoyed the incorporation of state of the art security technology and high grade surveillance used by all sides. The usage of Ex Military men joining their Navy Brother-Taylor in attacks was an interesting inclusion to the story as well.
I continue to be less than impressed with Blake Lively who played O. the endangered apex of the love triangle. O is in a heartfelt, and sexual relationship with both Chon and Ben. This is an arrangement that is extremely unbelievable. Two drug lords would never have enough compersion to share a hot hippie chick, and I also don’t believe she would be so OK with it either. The more unfortunate part about Lively’s existence in the movie is that Stone appointed her as the narrator of the film. With continuous, boring voice overs that often told what should have been shown. There are also times while she is explaining the happenings of the story that her character would have no way of knowing what she is explaining, once even, I noticed, that alludes to how the story will end.
In the end, after Stone plays a bit of a cinematic trick on the audience, you leave the theater entertained but not blown away. I would recommend holding off on “Savages” and the movie theater prices and check it out for an entertaining night in when it makes its way to Blu-ray.
Medium Popcorn with Butter.