Savages Review

Given the relatively weighty subject matter of much of director Oliver Stone’s previous work (Platoon, Nixon, World Trade Centre), it’s strange to find him in such an apparently inconsequential mood with Savages; a violent tale of drugs cartels and kidnap; a topic which you might (wrongly) assume the director would handle with at least a drop of seriousness.

Best buddies Chon (Taylor Kitsch), a young veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan; and Ben (Aaron Johnson), a charitable hippie, have cultivated a comfortable existence for themselves growing and selling huge quantities of the world’s most potent marijuana.

Their sun kissed lives of beach-front bliss, living with their mutual girlfriend-cum-fuck-buddy, O (Blake Lively), are scuppered by the emergence of a dangerous Mexican drugs cartel. The cartel’s violent offer of partnership is, on the advice of Chon, refused by the boys, leading the gang to kidnap O as a reprisal.As the cartel’s violent enforcer, Lado (Benicio del Toro) sharpens his claws, the duo must pull every trick in the book to save their girl, their business, and their lives.

Stone’s movie, adapted from Don Winslow’s novel attempts to mesh together elements of the heist movie, the buddie picture and the revenge thriller. The result is an incredibly violent mess.

At times it’s rampantly entertaining: del Toro’s ruthless criminal reaches almost pantomime levels of cruelty, while John Travolta’s smarmy, corrupt DEA official gets the best of the lines, and gives Savages a much-needed jolt of humour.

More often than not it’s strangely, and disappointingly tedious: the central threesome are a pretty unlikeable bunch; self-absorbed, miserable, unfailingly gorgeous. Nasty, ruthless and irredeemably dull Chon is tempered by Ben’s ill-deserved opulence and false sense of charity. O’s rambling voiceover takes in everything from Chon’s posttraumatic state of mind, to his sexual prowess, and is often toe-curlingly hamfisted: “he’s always trying to fuck the war out of himself. I have orgasms, he has wargasms”.

The severed limbs, gunshot wounds and burnt bodies all rack up quickly in this romping, violent fiasco. Lubricated by frequent scenes of drug abuse and the odd bit of nookie; it’s a fattening, MSG-laced takeaway in movie form. It’s quick, it’s easy, but it leaves you feeling bloated, queasy,with a vague sense of disappointment and regret.

The double-dip ending sums up the mess pretty well. Head-banging violence, and stylish gunplay; with an unsatisfying end product that’s twisted, and pulpy; but empty too, and liberally smeared with false sense of tacked-on relevance.

Chris Banks (@Chris_in_2D)

★★1/2☆☆

Rating:15
UK Release Date: 21st September 2012
Directed By:Oliver Stone
Cast:Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Blake Lively, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta, Salma Hayek

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