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Archive for the ‘Savages’ Category

Savages

Oliver Stone used to be one of those directors who’s films were anticipated.  They were events, and he was once one of the greatest filmmakers of the times.  It’s been a long time since those days, and he’s done nothing but turn out grandiose flop after flop.  His last great film in my opinion, was 1994’s Natural Born Killers.  He took a fantastic Quentin Tarantino penned script and created a bombastic statement on sex, violence, media and society.  His new film Savages attempts to grab hold of some of those themes that he explored almost 20 years ago, and while it is entertaining at times, the film is mostly filled with poor attempts at re-creating those themes.

Savages is Stone’s most violent film since Natural Born Killers, and stars Taylor Kitsch as Chon, and Aaron Johnson as Ben, two men who control the California pot trade.  Ben is the biologist and entrepreneur.  Chon is the ex-military muscle of the operation.  He takes care of the things that need to be done, but you don’t want to hear about.  Blake Lively plays O, Ben and Chon’s muse.  They both love her uncontrollably, and the three live a happy harmonious life together.  All is well and good in their world until the Mexican cartel decides they want a piece of the action, and they are willing to do anything to get a piece of it.

Elena, played by Salma Hayek, is the leader of the cartel and she sends her team to meet with Ben and Chon and propose a deal be made.  Ben wants to just make the deal and make them go away.  He’s not the type that wants any trouble, but Chon warns him that if you let people take advantage of you, they will continue to take advantage of you until there’s nothing left to take.  They decide to reject the deal, and that’s when things go haywire.  Elena sends her enforcer Lado, played by Benecio Del Toro, to kidnap O and force them to partner up.

A lot of characters enter and exit the storyline here, including DEA agent Dennis, played by John Travolta.  Dennis is a corrupt agent who is taking money from both the cartel along with Ben and Chon.  He finds himself stuck in the middle of everything that takes place.  The film gets a little confusing as we try to figure out who is trying to screw who, and where the film is actually going.  Ben and Chon will do anything to get O back.  Make a deal, pay for her, whatever the cartel wants.  They’ve offended Elena though, and she is not happy about it.

Savages suffers from too many characters, playing too many angles.  It’s a common issue with films of this type.  It’s films of this type that director Quentin Tarantino has made a career out of perfecting.  It’s films of this type that Oliver Stone does not know how to make.  It comes off as fun at times and even has some beautiful scenes, especially those with Ben, Chon and O living the life in their Laguna beach house, but mostly the film is sloppy.  I’m not sure if Stone was trying to make an ultra-violent Jules and Jim or what here.

…and then there’s Taylor Kitsch.  Poor Taylor is responsible for two of the worst films of the year in Battleship and John Carter of Mars (my pick for the worst film of the decade so far).  I constantly pull for Kitsch and success for him, but I went in to Savages fearing the worst.  Luckily, he’s not that bad, and he borders on being pretty good.  I don’t think Kitsch is able to carry a picture, but he is ferocious as an angry ex-militant here, in a little bit of a supporting role.  Aaron Johnson is also great as Ben, and he’s been doing great work ever since I first saw him in Nowhere Boy playing a young John Lennon.

Too many characters, too many motives, too many plots and sub-plots, and too much violence for the sake of being violent.  This is Stone trying to shock us in to buying tickets, and unfortunately it doesn’t work.

Grade: C