Friday, July 6, 2012

Savages Review

To be honest, I haven't seen many of Oliver Stone's films - only Wall Street, Alexander, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.  Therefore, I can't really compare his latest film, Savages, to his long list of features.  What I can compare this film to is a needlessly confusing, overly self-indulgent, lame-fest of a film.  I really wanted to like it...I promise!

I'll cut right to the chase: I didn't like Savages.  Right from the beginning, with the cheesy voice-over from Blake Lively (who I suppose does an alright job of a drug addict-hippie chick..I guess) and washed-out flashes and images of random stuff.  Those two aspects of the film that I did not like at all continue throughout the incredibly long run time.  The film is 130 minutes - I'd say at least a half-hour too long.  So much could've been cropped out of this movie and it may have made for a more enjoyable experience.

My main complaint goes along with the run time; so much happens in Savages that didn't really need to be there.  There are so many characters and plots and subplots and twists that its all overly confusing and needlessly so.  I like the main concept: pot-growing (the best in the world, apparently) best friends, Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson) are both in love with the same woman, O (Lively) and are on the top of the "indie" game in California.  They're all millionaires living in a house on the beach.  A Mexican cartel, headed by Elena (Salma Hayek), enforced by Lado (Benicio del Toro) are moving out of Mexico up into Native American reservations (as those lands don't fall under Federal jurisdiction) and, of course, into the territory of our two leads.  Elena has O kidnapped to force Ben and Chon into cooperating with an agreement they rejected.  Now, if the plot had gone the way I wanted, and the film turned into a vengeance-fulled killing spree, a la Taken, I would have enjoyed Savages that much more.  Instead, the film languishes and meanders through events and really just drags things down.

The highlights of the film, for me, are the two action scenes, one mid-way through the film and the finale.  Those were the only action scenes of the film.  Now, I love me some good drama and parts of this film had that - they just happened to be punctuated by more washed-out images straight from a Tony Scott film (see: Man on Fire) or random shots that mean absolutely nothing.  I mean, at one point we got a shot of a starry sky that means nothing and at another point we get what I assume is meant to be an establishing shot of a beach with a female roller blader running into a wall.  It makes no sense.  Actually, a lot of the film makes no sense.  Perhaps because del Toro's Mexican accent was incredibly hard to understand, and there were virtually no subtitles for all the Spanish being flung around.  Oh, and a member of Ben and Chon's ex-military crew is killed midway through the film and there is literally no mention of it whatsoever.  And they use the word "savages" at least four times throughout the film.  One time, maybe.  But four??  Perfect examples of the self-indulgence on display.

The cast, on the other hand, is quite fantastic.  Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch make a great duo; Johnson's Ben is the quieter, hippie side of the operation, with Kitsch's Chon being the violent side.  If Lively's job was to be blase then mission accomplished.  For some reason her character annoyed me - I just can't put a finger on it.  John Travolta's role is somewhat limited and at times pretty over-the-top-campy.  Same goes for del Toro, but the times in which his ridiculous Mexican accent wasn't getting in the way his character was incredibly intimidating and intriguing.  I perhaps enjoyed Hayek's Elena the most of the group; rarely do we see a woman in such power (of an incredibly large drug-trafficking organization) and she pulls it off with great aplomb.

I'm pretty much done here.  I wanted desperately to enjoy Savages and there were parts that I did.  Unfortunately those parts are so few and far between that it is virtually impossible for me to recall them.  If you're a fan of Stone's other films then perhaps you'll want to give it a chance.  I, unfortunately, cannot recommend it to anyone else.

Savages is an incredibly disappointed drama that languishes underneath self-indulgence.

The Bearded Bullet.

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