Release Date: July 6, 2012
Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively
Runtime: 131 min
Oliver Stone is a rather masterful filmmaker, bringing us greats like Platoon, Natural Born Killers and writing the screenplay for the apparently incredible Scarface. With Savages, Stone returns to violent form, but he could have added some stellar storytelling to the style and look of the feature.
Entrepreneurs Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) a peaceful and charitable marijuana producer, and friend Jon (Taylor Kitsch), a former Navy SEAL, run a lucrative, home grown industry – raising some of the best marijuana ever developed. They also share a one-of-a-kind love with Ophelia (Blake Lively). Life is idyllic in their Southern California town… until the Mexican Baja Cartel decides to move in and demands that the trio partners with them. When the merciless head of the BC, Elena (Salma Hayek) and her enforcer, Lado (Benicio Del Toro) underestimate the unbreakable bond of the three friends, Ben and Jon – with the reluctant assistance of a dirty DEA agent (John Travolta) – wage a war against the cartel. And so begins a series of increasingly vicious ploys and manoeuvres in a high stakes, savage battle of wills.
The writers are able to throw a fresh spin at the kidnap rescue mission genre. This is the first time, at least that comes to mind, where a girl gets kidnapped and she is a shared girl friend. Sure, the traditional search-and-rescue mission is when an individual would ask for help; while they do need assistance from buddies, they are certainly the primary rescuers, with Jon being the violent one. A few more original spins include: 1) the analysis of greed and; 2) a test of a certain characters’ behaviour.
I don’t recall greed being explored thoroughly during the feature, but it comes to mind looking back. I mean, one has to be so greedy that they’d kidnap someone and try to tap into your drug sales. That’s just ruthless and rather inconsiderate. Ha-ha, listen to me, like they’d care that they’re being inconsiderate…
Throughout the feature, Ben’s peaceful mindset is put the test. I won’t say what actually happens, but he definitely has to things he wouldn’t want to do to save his girl.
That’s really all that’s fresh about the feature. This is really a film that is all style, and not a lot of substance (excluding the drugs). There’s black and white scenes, cool clothes, and beautiful Californian scenery. It really is too bad that there’s not an engaging story to complement the beauty of the film.
On more than one occasion, I felt my attention wandering and my head bobbing. I had to try hard to keep focused. Also, in one scene, I literally had to slap myself to stay awake. This was mostly during the dialogue exchanges, but when there are action scenes, they’re immensely violent and usually exciting. This is also quite the sexy crime thriller. Blake Lively is great, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is great, Benicio Del Toro is pretty fantastic when one can understand him, Taylor Kitsch is just okay, and Salma Hayek has never been so ruthless, but she has also never been so annoying. The real good thing about this is Oliver Stone returning to violent features.
In a nutshell: Oliver Stone directs extremely well, but Savages is all style, and doesn’t focus enough on substance or solid storytelling. For me, this is one of the most disappointing films of 2012.