Pietro's Movie Review: SAVAGES
Published: July 5, 2012 - 11:52am
Savages is the most confusing movie I've seen in a long time. The performances from it's main cast are extraordinary and it's cinematography is hauntingly beautiful, but something is very off with it's pacing and the way the story unfolds because overall the film felt forced and awkward.
There's a really good story to tell in Savages, but unfortunately the majority of the film reeked of cheesiness and melodrama to the point of eye-rolling. Kick Ass's Aaron Johnson stars as Berkeley grad Ben and John Carter's Taylor Kitsch plays volatile war veteran Chon, longtime friends who own a very lucrative pot growing operation in Southern California. They also overtly share the affection of Ophelia (Blake Lively) who goes by the nickname 'O' narrates the film from beginning to end.
This is where my first problem lies, and it's not with the notion two alpha males who seem to be polar opposites would play house with one woman. Lively's voice over an array of psychedelic scenes replaced much needed tension with a sense of monotony. It felt too rehearsed, like she was reading directly from the film's script and we -- as moviegoers -- had to accept the emotion behind those scenes just because we are told to. Her character carried the same airy uncomfortableness found in her narration throughout the film, a poor choice for a woman who the audience should (but won't) do nothing but empathize with.
But where Lively's performance faltered Johnson and Kitsch's were dynamic and engaging throughout. These two actors have each headlined action-oriented films before but until Savages I didn't believe they had much range. If nothing else this film is a self-serving vessel where they were able to put their talents on display for the masses. We're also treated to very strong characters played by Benicio Del Toro (not surprising) and John Travolta, which help to balance out Salma Hayek's blase and stereotypical 'Madrina' of a Mexican drug cartel. Emile Hirsch also shows up to deliver an enjoyable turn as a trendy accountant who helps Ben and Chon's business stay 'clean.' When the boys refuse to work with Hayek's cartel that is slowly creeping into American territory, O gets kidnapped to force their hand.
Savages is a brutal film that takes you inside the modernized world of the drug business, from digital laundering of money across the world and living in the lap of luxury to torturing and murdering whoever gets in the way of success. It attempts to focus more on the interconnecting relationships of the characters than the story itself, which I felt failed. There is no one to root for here, and there's no one I wanted to see punished because the characters are never fully realized. They're treated like archetypes instead of individuals. The dialogue is another poorly executed factor, with so many moments that should have been heartfelt and intimate being met with laughter.
I left the theater confused as to how so many great components came together so poorly. The film isn't bad in the general sense of the word, but it was very hollow. Regardless, it is filled with beautiful camera work that is both gritty and polished. The performances really are enjoyable even though the characters are forgettable. Thankfully it's not in 3D.
Three-time Oscar®-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone returns to the screen with the ferocious thriller Savages, featuring the all-star ensemble cast of Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Emile Hirsch and Demian Bichir. The film is based on Don Winslow’s best-selling crime novel that was named one of The New York Times' Top 10 Books of 2010.
Laguna Beach entrepreneurs Ben (Johnson), a peaceful and charitable Buddhist, and his closest friend Chon (Kitsch), a former Navy SEAL and ex-mercenary, run a lucrative, homegrown industry—raising some of the best marijuana ever developed. They also share a one-of-a-kind love with the extraordinary beauty Ophelia (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 (Hayek), and her brutal enforcer, Lado (Del Toro), underestimate the unbreakable bond among these three friends, Ben and Chon—with the reluctant, slippery assistance of a dirty DEA agent (Travolta)—wage a seemingly unwinnable war against the cartel. And so begins a series of increasingly vicious ploys and maneuvers in a high stakes, savage battle of wills.
Savages is directed by Oliver Stone off a screenplay by Stone, Shane Salerno and Don Winslow (author of the novel). The film stars Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Benicio Del Toro, Aaron Johnson, Salma Hayek,Emile Hirsch and John Travolta and is scheduled to hit theaters on July 6, 2012.