Directed by Oliver Stone (Platoon, Natural Born Killers), Savages follows Laguna Beach entrepreneurs Ben (Aaron Johnson, Kick Ass), a peaceful and charitable Buddhist, and his friend Chon (Taylor Kitsch, Friday Night Lights), a former Navy SEAL and ex-mercenary, who together run a lucrative marijuana business. Both men also share a one-of-a-kind love with Ophelia (Blake Lively, Gossip Girl). Life is idyllic for the three until the Mexican Baja Cartel moves in. In order to force Ben and Chon to join them, the Baja Cartel takes advantage of Ben and Chon’s unique ménage a trios situation and kidnap Ophelia.
Based on the novel of the same name by Don Winslow, Savages marks Oliver Stone’s return to his unique style of dirty and fun filmmaking. Stone successfully creates a thrilling and edgy action movie that is gritty, dark and, well, savage. Aaron Johnson is terrific as the sensitive hippy botanist and Taylor Kitsch is convincing as the tough, straight-shooting ex-mercenary. John Travolta, who plays a corrupt federal agent, is in excellent form but it is Benicio Del Toro, who plays the extremely affecting sadistic and brutal Baja Cartel thug, which leaves a lasting impression. So much so, viewers may find themselves shrinking deep into their seats every time he appears onscreen.
As the head of the Mexican Cartel, Salma Hayek is less convincing, and as the love interest and narrator of the film, Blake Lively is unimpressive and sometimes even annoying. Towards the end there is a twist that the movie would have benefitted without, but it kind of works. Despite all of this, the movie doesn’t suffer. It is brutal, horrifying, stylish and engaging.
Overall, I give Savages a 4 out of 5.
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