Savages – Film Review
STARRING: Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta
DIRECTOR: Oliver Stone
STUDIO: Universal Studios
RUN TIME: 130 minutes
RELEASE DATE: July 6, 2012
By Seth Miller
Staff Writer, Part-Time Ninja
There comes a point every summer, no matter how much you love the source material or how stoked you are by all the pre-release buzz, that you will be sick of all the movies coming out in the summer. You probably want something different than superheroes and huge explosions, or you’re just tired of the crowds and want something that might possibly have a smaller crowd. The new film, Savages, fills in this niche for this year.
Ben (Johnson) and Chon (Kitsch) are two best friends who — in traditional movie fashion — are complete opposites. Ben is a Buddhist who wants to help out in third world countries and Chon is a former Navy SEAL who is a shoot-first type. They run a highly successful pot business, have a DEA agent (Travolta) on their payroll, and both share the love of rich girl O (Lively). The leader of Mexican drug cartel (Hayek) is looking to move north with the aid of her No. 1 henchman (Del Toro) and buy out Ben and Chon’s operation. When they refuse, the cartel kidnap O and the boys have to put together a plan to get her back.
The film’s tone is more sensational than you would expect from this subject matter, but that is to its benefit in my opinion. The opening is based on the laid back Southern California lifestyle of people who live the sweet, laidback life with no real concept of how rough the business they are in can actually become; and it makes the appearance of the cartel and everything they do all the more potent. I believe that it could have been a better film with a more serious tone that director Oliver Stone could have really explored the drug world, but it is still a decent crime film.
Despite the fact the three protagonists are pretty dull, the rest of the cast makes the film an entertaining spectacle. Del Toro is vicious in the worst possible way, but his scenery-chewing style fits naturally with the film’s style. Travolta has fun with his role as a corrupt DEA agent playing all the angles. He could have made the role a cliché of corrupt government agents, but he plays it more like a man who is jaded by all the years in the War on Drugs and just wants to take care of himself and his family. Hayek has the best role in the film as a drug lord trying to hold on to her empire and family; she is both cool and collected while being quick to anger and unpredictable.
Savages still has its problems. As I mentioned, the three protagonists are dull; any time they appear onscreen the entertainment value drops. I don’t know if it was the writing or just the acting, but Lively’s O was just terrible to watch. A scene in the film between her and Hayek seemed like a great, engaging setup based on what we had seen previously, but it was a letdown and the problem was not on Hayek’s end. Also, her narration is so detached and emotionless that I don’t know how the hell it ended up in the movie. The last few scenes feel rushed and if I say anymore about why I didn’t like the ending I would spoil more than I ought to.
Savages is an oasis in a desert of standard summer movies and is a decent crime film, but it’s just that, and not much more.
Front page image and interior stills from collider.com.