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Dan's Review: Savages

Wouldn't it be great if you could become filthy rich by selling marijuana and avoid any kind of violent outcome? Yeah, didn't think so.
Savages (Universal)

Rated R for strong brutal and grisly violence, some graphic sexuality, nudity, drug use and language throughout.

Starring Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, Sandra Echeverria, Diego Cataño, Emile Hirsch, Joel David Moore, John Travolta, Demián Bichir,Trevor Donovan,Ralph Echemendia, Benicio del Toro, Mía Maestro, Amber Dixon.

Written by Shane Salerno, Don Winslow and Oliver Stone, based on the novel by
Don Winslow.

Directed by Oliver Stone.

GRADE: C

REVIEW:


Wouldn't it be great if you could become a millionaire by growing marijuana, share a girlfriend with your buddy, and avoid any violent consequences? Dream on.

That's the idea in Savages, the Oliver Stone-directed film based on the novel written by Don Winslow.

Taylor Kitsch plays Chon, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who is best buddies with Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a brilliant, Buddhist botanist. Chon and Aaron team up to transport pot seeds from Afghanistan to develop into a super weed with containing more than 30 percent THC. They share Ophelia, "O" (Blake Lively) as their girlfriend and live in a Laguna Beach house where they smoke piles of weed and carry on with the morality of hamsters (sometimes together). It all seems Utopian until a Mexican drug cartel learns of their existence and encourages Chon and Aaron to merge, or else.

The pair refuses to merge and plan to escape to Indonesia with O, but those plans are halted when O is kidnapped by the cartel led by Elena (Salma Hayek). Elena's henchman is Lado (Benicio del Toro), who hides O in a shack. The boys eschew Arron's non-violent beliefs and embrace Chon's more brutal methods, executing a daring heist of Elena's drug money with the help of Chon's war buddies (special forces types). They also kidnap Elena's daughter.

In the meantime, Dennis (John Travolta), a corrupt DEA agent works both sides against each other to his own benefit. The violence escalates until Chon and Aaron make a deal to exchange O for Elena's daughter. A confrontation during the exchange is imminent...or is it?

Without issuing too many spoilers, let me say that the ending in Savages wimps out with two different versions. The movie has a gritty, "Tarantino-esque" quality up until that two-pronged ending, when Stone opts instead for something of a "Scooby-Doo" finale.

Taylor Kitsch perhaps gains a little self-respect (following his terrible, recent Battleship fiasco) with a solid performance as the impulsive protector of O, while Aaron Taylor-Johnson provides a contrasting perspective as he sruggles with using violence to protect the one he loves against his Buddhist beliefs. That struggle gives Savages an interesting morality play. Blake Lively, who also narrates (a lot) is also adequate as the damsel in distress. Decent portrayals aside, Benicio del Toro eclipses all others and pretty much steals every scene he's in, despite his tendency to twist his mustache in a villainous way.

Savages lives up to its name with plenty of sex, nudity, graphic violence (including torture) and the aforementioned piles of weed, so please, for the love of all things holy...do not take kids to see this movie. Some of those violent images are truly disturbing. It's perhaps an homage to Stone's earlier screenwriting days, much like ("Say hallo to my LEETLE Frenn!") Scarface, but without the heavy Cuban accents.

I'm not entirely sure what the point of Savages is. Perhaps it's the idea that we're all savages, so why not embrace it? Maybe it's the idea that Utopia always comes at a deadly price. Either way, Savages starts out tough, but ends up with a more than wimpy and confusing conclusion.

Also: Kids..just say "no" to drug cartels.



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