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July 17, 2012

Savages is the type of movie that’s kind of a dick. It invites you on a joy ride that although is littered with rough curves and bumps throughout, is overall an enjoyable experience; that is until the point where all it has to do is drop you home safely. Instead of pulling in casually with a pretty cool unexpected drift, it lunges back and forth like a drunk who just remembered he’s hammered, and then it takes a sharp turn into the neighbor’s yard taking out the mailbox on the way.

I had hope and faith in Oliver Stone to deliver a visually stunning, brutal story surrounding a war between two drug cartels. But I keep forgetting that it’s not the 1990s anymore and Stone no longer has that magical touch he once possessed. Gone are the days of thought provoking, intricate tales like Platoon, Natural Born Killers, or even The Doors as it seems that now in his most recent years Stone’s films have lost their focus and edge. Savages partly delivers the thrills and punches that one would expect from an Oliver Stone picture, but in a half assed jumbled way.

Savages tells the story of Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Shawn (Taylor Kitsch), two marijuana growers in Laguna Beach, California whose product is so good that it has become stuff of legend. Their success is owed to Ben’s delicacy and brains contrasted against the ex-Navy seal, Shawn, who keeps the peace by cracking skulls if need be. Polar opposites, the one thing the boys share besides their business is Ophelia, a free floating, bubbly beach girl who keeps both satisfied. The trio’s paradise is crippled, however, when the boys are propositioned by a notorious Mexican drug cartel who’s head, the moody and vengeful Elena (Selma Hayek) wants the boys to join her business. To make sure they take her request seriously she sends her right hand man Lado (Benicio del Toro) to kidnap O, sparking a rage in both boys to get their girl back at any cost.

Savages truly had potential but its biggest flaw was its god awful script. A slew of characters are used unnecessarily in the story, some character’s are just inconsistent, the dialogue at times is terribly written and the decision to feature an ongoing voice-over narration from O throughout the film diminishes any positives the film has. We are told repeatedly through the film that O loves Ben and Shawn and they her, but it’s never explored making it hard to buy that these two guys are willing to go through hell and high water to settle the situation. There’s a scene in which she tells the boys that they’re like “that movie with Paul Newman when he was alive and Robert Redford when he was hot” and that she is like the girl in the movie. What she’s discussing is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a classic western about the two infamous criminals who made a name for themselves pulling heists, sometimes with help of Sundance’s lover, Etta, whom also has flings with Butch. Both men have strong feelings for Etta and she them, these feelings are mostly shown through scenes of tender solitude between each. Is the “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” scene not just precious? That’s a major element that Savages fails to include. Sure we see some pretty hot sex scenes between O, Shawn and Ben but nothing to convince viewers that she’s worth the fight.

I’ll give credit where credit is due, there are some great moments of action and times of fantastic performances, most specifically and consistently from Benicio del Toro, who just knows how to play sleaze with such a disgustingly captivating precision. However, most of the film teeters back and forth between being mediocre and just bad and by the time you get to the film’s ending if you’re not outraged then you just weren’t paying attention. For over two hours viewers are anticipating and set up for the final scene. The climax of the story unfolds in a hail of bullets and chaos. The ending is shocking but a nice twist, that is until Stone decides to use the good old Wayne’s World trickery and rewinds the last few minutes playing over the climax for the sake of a cheap comedy bit and a clean ending despite the fact that some of the film’s more brutal savages continue to further destroy the lives of others without consequence. The ending of Savages is so disappointing that it ruined the entire film for me. Before the last 15 minutes, Savages was pretty decent. I could forgive the terrible dialogue, the awkward moments of bad acting, the overly obvious moments of foreshadowing, but to deliver all those flaws and give me a half assed ending, well that’s like a message with no happy ending. Am I right Travolta?

AVOID IT. Or just wait until its on Red Box.

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