SavagesFeature Film |
A Stone-r thrill-ride.
Savages is a return to form of sorts for Oliver Stone, who must have had a field day making a film about über-sexual, pot growing SoCal surfers at war with a Mexican drug cartel. It’s sporadically ultra-violent, in the disturbingly believable Platoon way, despite a style more resembling Natural Born Killers. Ben (Aaron Johnson), a free spirit and philanthropist, and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), an ex-Navy SEAL, are partners and best friends who grow the best weed in America. After they reject a partnership with the Baja Cartel, its leader, Elena "La Reina" (Salma Hayek), orders her muscle, Lado (Benicio del Toro) to kidnap Ophelia (Blake Lively), the object of Ben and Chon's affection, in order to ensure their cooperation. It’s impressive that a film based on such an unrealistic premise, emotionally— Chon (say “John” while sneezing) and Ben’s equal and singular affection for "O" without jealousy or awkwardness— is still compelling and fun in spite of Lively’s often cheesy lines. Johnson and Kitsch are well cast as the compassionate hippie and the raging badass, respectively, but Benicio del Toro’s filthy performance reigns supreme. Lado is part Dr. Gonzo, part Jackie Boy, and all awesome.
There are a ton of characters to keep track of, though most are distinctive and memorable. John Travolta is pleasantly manic as a corrupt DEA agent, and Oscar-nominated Demián Bichir is calmly intimidating as a cartel lawyer. The film’s ending lacks the cajones of the rest of the film (and Don Winslow’s book) due to what was surely poor focus group feedback, but most of the cast— especially del Toro— make Savages a relative success.