Starring: Blake Lively, Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Taylor – Johnson
You may like this if you liked: U Turn (Oliver Stone, 1997), The Informers (Gregor Jordan, 2008), Layer Cake (Mathew Vaughan, 2004)
On a sun drenched beach in California best friends Chon (Kitsch) and Ben (Johnson) make a vast fortune from growing and distributing pot. Along with their mutual girlfriend O (Lively) they all spend their time sitting around drinking like they are in tourism videos/perfume adverts and having threesomes. Chon is an intense former navy seal who apparently has ‘wargasms’, Ben is a new age hippy with intentions to use his money for good, and O is there to look nice and solely serve as a narrative function. The powerful and you may be surprised to hear this, quite nasty Mexican drug cartel run by Elena (Salma Hayek) demand they work for them in a ‘partnership’. Naturally, so we have a film they subsequently disagree and the cartel threatens to annihilate them and declare war. The three vow to leave as this is a war they cannot win. To further make their point the cartel kidnaps O when she goes on ‘one last shopping trip’, not too stereotypical then! To get the love of both their lives back, and themselves survive, Chon and Ben have to be clever and downright dirty if they are to outwit and outgun those hunting them lead by Benicio Del Toro’s textbook generic Mexican hit man.
Oh dear, oh dear, what has happened to Oliver Stone? This was a man who directed some intelligent and thought provoking passionate films in the 80s and the early 90s. This man we now have going by the name ‘Oliver Stone’ has to be an imposter as I am afraid to say that Savages is horrifically bad. Mark Kermode in his review said that inside this two hours and ten minutes (!) film is a fun 90 minutes exploitation film wanting to come out. I completely agree, unfortunately that is not what we have and so this is a terrible film. The plot is nothing new but if Savages was a little sleazy, fun, a bit tongue in cheek and 90 minutes then it could have been a half decent watch.
One of the main problems with Savages from the off is the characters. It is almost impossible to care about these characters, even though Oliver Stone is obviously desperate for us to care about them as much as he does. The acting and dialogue does not help. Taylor Kitsch and Blake Lively are quite simply awful and even the obviously talented Aaron Johnson is pretty lame. Their characters are one dimensional and beyond stereotypical so we just cannot care about them, I personally wanted them all to be killed off so they could stop boring me. The dialogue is clunky and just downright embarrassing at times, especially Blake Lively’s cringe worthy narration of the story. At the beginning she compares to what the character’s are like in bed: “Ben is soft word, Chon is cold metal.” This along with the whole aforementioned ‘wargasms’ thing basically set the standard. The problem is they all play it straight and very seriously, which was a huge mistake as it is a film that is way too stupid to ever get away with being serious.
There was potential here as the other three characters are incredibly stereotypical but at least interesting. Salma Hayek’s kingpin is not only well played, but also the only character with a little depth. Benicio Del Toro has outrageous hair and quite literally chews the scenery, but at least he is having fun and enjoyable to watch. John Travolta plays a beyond corrupt DEA agent, and does the whole sleazy John Travolta thing as well as always. These characters are all good fun and make the film a little watchable. If the whole narrative was more in tone with these characters then it could have been a fun watch. Stone should have had a chat with Robert Rodriguez as he has produced many films that successfully manage this. Oliver Stone is obviously trying to prove something with the glamorous California locations, despite the shoddy B movie plot. The cinematography shows the sea to be deep blue, the sand extremely pale, the trees a deep green and all our ‘heroes’ to be beautiful looking human beings. However this in my opinion has proved a massive own goal as it is simply impossible to care. As for the ending, I do not want to give anything away, but trust me that it is beyond infuriating.
What could have been a fun exploitation B movie is actually a painfully dull and boring experience. Hayek, Del Toro and Travolta are watchable and have a good go, but the predictable story, shocking acting, one dimensional protagonists and flat dialogue provide an empty waste of time.