Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Savages (2012)

JohnnyTwoToes finds this quirky crime thriller flawed but entertaining!

Oliver Stone lets his "free love" fly in this offbeat drugs themed thriller Savages (2012). This is a odd little film that came and went rather quickly earlier in 2012, and although it is not very great (and not very bad either), it is just intoxicating enough with a A-rate ensemble cast to boot that you might actually end up liking it. 

Savages tells the story of 3 drug dealers; O played by the lovely Blake Lively, Chon played by current Hollywood fav Taylor Kitsch and Ben subtly played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. They have a beautiful house on the beach in sunny LA, have tons of money from their drug trade and a relative care free lifestyle. They are quite famous too because everyone is using their product; from entertainers to a corrupt DEA officer named Dennis (John Travolta). 

O as she is called loves both Chon and Ben and they represented what she looks for in a guy only, here it takes two, apparently. "Ben makes love to me, whereas Chon and I have sex", O muses. Chon is a tortured Gulf War vet who met Ben while Chon was running black market goods while still in the military. 

The three main leads are excellent. Blake Lively loves both her men but can't seem to part with either one of them. Chon is a seemingly decent but an impulsive bloke and Kitsch plays him well as both violent but always knows more than he lets on. Ben is smart no doubt who does most of the figuring and processing of the pot  but Johnson plays him as a sweetly naive lad with new age spiritual leanings who only wants to provide pot to those who just want to get high for whatever reason. 

After the three receive a horrifying email from a ruthless rival, they agree to a sit down with the competition run by Elena (Salma Hayek) who is both beauty and the beast. They are told "bring all of your knowledge on how to grow the best pot or we will be very angry." Ben gulps with fear but Chon is pragmatic about it. They say no and that is when O is kidnapped by Elena and her crew run by Lado (Benicio Del Toro in terrific form). 

Savages is gritty and gruesome. And being about drug dealers and drug runners, it is understandable that these are not the nicest people in the world. Lado is especially cruel as he dishes out voilent punishment for anyone who crosses the "organization". There is the constant threat of betrayal on both sides that is understood and Stone's direction lets it boil slowly but effectively. 

The script written by Stone, Shane Salerno and Don Winslow (based on his novel) is well researched and seems to know what it is talking about. There are some touches of very dark humor along the way but in the back of our minds we know this is all coming to a head. It does drag in a few spots and the ending was interesting if not kind of silly. Still this is a decent (but flawed) film and not for the squeamish. 

There is an underlying theme for legalizing drugs (pot in particular) in Savages which I feel could have been done without. This has long been an issue close to Stone's heart but that is another story. Somehow , he worked into this film and I found it distracting. I mean he wants to legalize drugs but everyone in this film are people we would not want to spend anytime around, so which is it, Ollie? Drugs are either great or they attract some of the lowest scumbag dealers around. Savages can't seem to provide any answers to either of those questions. Still, I was interested by the characters in Savages and liked most of what I saw. 

For the most part,  Savages is entertaining, well acted, well written and the cinematography by Daniel Mindel is simply gorgeous. I mean any film that has a rich cast like this and the minds behind it can't be that bad. 

There are two versions to Savages; an R-rated version and an uncut version. The R-rated version is decent and has a run time of just over two hours, whereas, the uncut version is almost two and a half hours in runtime and is a more complete film. Skip the rated version and watch the uncut edition - it is more better, more stylish and if I could add, more savagely satisfying.


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