These days, it’s difficult to properly mold a good drama. There are so many factors you have to weigh. If the film has a couple large mistakes, they can easily make or break it. Unfortunately for Oliver Stone‘s Savages, while wildly entertaining, it ultimately falters due to some hazardous bumps along the way.
- Director: Oliver Stone
- Writers: Shane Salerno, Don Winslow & Oliver Stone
- Cast: Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, Demián Bichir
- Music: Adam Peters
- Cinematography: Daniel Mindel
Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) are living it up in California. Not only do they have the best marijuana on the West Coast, but they’re wealthy and sharing it with the love of their lives, O (Blake Lively). When you’re that successful, it’s easy to be noticed by others. A Mexican drug cartel, headed by the fierce Elena (Salma Hayek), tries to buy out the duo. When they refuse, the cartel has no choice but to kidnap O. Pushed to the brink, Ben and Chon do whatever it takes to get their girl back from the vicious thieves.
- Most of the Story: Savages works because of the rich characters and constant turmoil facing them from scene to scene. Most of the characters have a clear objective, especially our two heroes Ben and Chon. They may have different ways of approaching their situation but both agree on what needs to be done. The movie doesn’t miss a beat, constantly keeping you on the edge of your seat. It’s a really fast-paced story and although it’s surprisingly long it doesn’t feel that way.
- The Ensemble Cast: Speaking of Johnson and Kitsch, the two work great alongside the veteran actors sprinkled throughout the film. Kitsch is easily the shining star of the younger set, proving to audiences that after a couple of flops he still has that spark he possessed on Friday Night Lights. Most of the other cast is in top form, particularly Hayek who plays a powerful, terrifying but feminine version of a drug cartel. She’s an ice queen that you feel sympathetic for at times. It’s so much fun to see these actors interact with each other onscreen.
- Oliver Stone: Not sure what all the fuss is about in regards to Oliver Stone’s directing methods. But it’s a hoot and a holler to watch. You can tell that he knows Don Winslow’s novel like the back of his hand. He perfectly pieces together the high octane world that these characters live in. His style is a little bit over-the-top, but it’s a welcomed change compared to his previous movies.
- Ulterior Motives: [spoiler alert] Towards the end of the second act it’s revealed that one of the members of the cartel has been secretly working with FBI Agent Dennis (John Travolta). Basically, they’re trying to side-swipe not only Ben and Chon but Elena, their employer. At this point, you wish they were a straight-shot character. That they only had one thing on their mind, and that’s an insatiable craving for physical and emotional destruction. But when they’re turned into a two-faced liar, it’s a plot point that you couldn’t care less about.
- Our Leading Lady: Last year, when America complained that Blake Lively was one of the dark spots in Green Lantern, most of us ignored the critiques. Hey, maybe she’ll impress us with Savages? Nope. Lively is easily one of the worst parts of the movie. She’s lifeless, dull and her sleepy narration is just unnecessary to have in the film. You can easily cut it out and we’d still be able to follow the story. We don’t care how gorgeous she looks onscreen. If she can’t act, she shouldn’t be in this movie.
- Multiple Endings: [spoiler alert] What boggles our mind is how Stone and company managed to completely rearrange and botch the movie’s ending. Basically, they decided the best ending to put on screen would be a sad, violent but still closed-up one. It wasn’t the happiest, but it still worked to a degree when it came to the overall context of the story. But then they decided to go with the mega happy ending. Can you see our frustration? To make things worse, it’s still slightly unclear as to the fate of our trio. And to know that the ending of the novel was nothing like what was shown in the movie makes us all the more aggravated.
Savages is a step up for Oliver Stone as a director but a few steps back for him as a storyteller. It felt like we were two drafts away from a perfect film but that’s not what we got with the final cut.
Savages opens in theaters July 6.
Will you be seeing Savages this weekend?