Say what you will about Oliver Stone but you must admit he is an unapologetic filmmaker who tells the stories no one else would. A prime example is his new film Savages which is based on a novel by Don Winslow. This is an intensely violent film that has no heroes. It has some bad guys who are better than others but no one in the film is heroic. Still, Stone manages to keep your attention throughout the movie and has you pulling for the lesser bad guys to come out on top.
The basic plot concerns two high tech pot growing guys who also live the good life on a California beach. Chon (Taylor Kitsch) is an Afghanistan vet while his partner Ben (Aaron Johnson) is a beach bum of sorts. They team up to grow some high valued pot and end up being entrepreneurs. They also share the love and affection of a California golden girl named O., as in Ophelia (Blake Lively).
Their problems start when a Mexican drug cartel, headed up by a woman named Elena (Salma Hayek), wants to partner up on their procedure. When the two guys decline the offer the cartel kidnaps O., setting up a war between the two sides. Elena's main henchman Lado (Benicio del Toro) creates most of the violence.
Stone's directing keeps the action and suspense front and center in the film, but he also gets a little character study in there too. We learn Ben is a humanitarian of sorts. He does charity work in villages in Africa where he helps fund access to water supplies. Elena also has a soft spot and that is her daughter Magda (Sandra Echeverria). She will do anything to keep her safe and away from the dangers of her business.
The acting in the movie is solid across the board with John Travolta's turn as a whining and dirty DEA Agent above average. Del Toro also lingers in your mind after the film has faded from sight.
The movie is rated R for violence, profanity, nudity and sexual situations.
Some people try to dismiss Stone's talent but few will be able to deny it here. This is an edgy, creative movie that holds the attention of the audience from start to finish and then stays with them after they leave the theater. It is in your face action that doesn't celebrate the usual platitudes -- instead it embraces its savagery and savages.
I scored Savages a wild 7 out of 10.
Jackie K Cooper
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