Monday, October 1, 2012

Savages (2012)

Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson) are two carefree marijuana growers/experts. They’re enjoying their lives as best friends and drug dealers, and both men share Ophelia or “O” (Blake Lively) as their girlfriend. The pot business is booming, but Ben and Chon run into trouble, when they receive some intense pressure from a persistent cartel leader. Elena Sánchez (Salma Hayek) wants Chon and Ben to join her organization as business partners, and she won’t take no for an answer.

Feeling the heat, Ben and Chon plan a quick getaway before giving Elena their answer, but Elena senses something fishy, so she decides to kidnap O. Elena will use O as collateral, while Ben and Chon provide their services. O is at the mercy of Elena and her ruthless bodyguard/enforcer, Lado (Benicio del Toro), but Ben and Chon come up with an elaborate plan to save their girlfriend. Ben and Chon will need the help of a shady DEA agent named Dennis (John Travolta) to rescue O, and permanently break any ties with Elena.

Well, they really stayed true to the cohesive love triangle story here. Ben and Chon are both in love with O, she’s their best friend, and O feels the same way about her boyfriends. Ben, Chon, and O all get along well, and as far as the relationship between all three of them goes, you never see any signs of mistrust or betrayal. Ben and Chon confide in O, both of them treat her like a real girlfriend, and when it comes to the physical side of the relationship, both guys are more than willing to share O. No jealously, no bitter feelings, and a lack of trust never becomes a problem. The three-way relationship between O, Ben, and Chon can feel awkward at times, but it didn’t bother me too much. I guess you have to respect two guys, who are willing to share and have sex with one woman, AND risk their lives to save the same woman, right?

You might have mixed feelings for the three-way relationship, but you have to admire the acting in this film. Salma Hayek is just fantastic, and I can’t remember the last time she delivered such an outstanding performance. Naturally, Hayek is a very attractive woman, and she did bring a strong sense of believable sex appeal to this character. But the Elena character never reaches that “Oh well, she’s just eye candy” stage, and Hayek‘s good looks provided a positive attribute for the leader side of her character. Hayek was able to provide the cold-hearted and commanding presence of a feared cartel leader. Elena is a strong and confident character, and Hayek’s very convincing performance was the highlight of this film for me.

Benicio del Toro almost surpasses Hayek as an antagonist here, because he really nailed the Lado character. Del Toro is menacing, intimidating, and he did bring a genuinely evil presence to this character. Lado struggles with his loyalty to Elena, while trying to fulfill his own personal agenda, and I could sense the conflict within this character. Del Toro might choose a handful of bad films every now and then, but he is more than capable of delivering memorable performances.

John Travolta brought a humorous side to the Dennis character. Yeah, Dennis is a sleazy and crooked DEA agent, who will do anything for more money, but Dennis doesn’t take himself too seriously, and you can laugh at him. Technically, Dennis is one of the bad guys, but Travolta’s performance never reaches the level of a loathsome and annoying persona you can’t stand, and I actually enjoyed this approach.

Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson were solid enough, and I didn’t have a problem with Blake Lively here. O lives a carefree lifestyle. She has the look of a laid-back and promiscuous surfer chick, and Lively is believable here. It’s funny, because Lively is more comfortable with slutty personas. She transforms into a better actress, and if you don’t believe me, you should watch Lively’s performance in The Town.

And I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Oliver Stone deserves a lot of credit for the directing here. He’s not as good as Platoon Oliver Stone, but more importantly, he’s not as bad as Alexander Oliver Stone. He’s somewhere in the middle, and you will see a darker side of Stone here. Stone’s raw and gritty style is just fantastic, and I have some restored feelings of faith for Stone’s career.

The acting is almost perfect, and Stone shows he can still deliver the goods as a director…. but the story almost ruined this film. The screenplay is the most obvious weakness here, and I can’t ignore Savages’ convoluted story. At first, the story showed some real promise, but eventually, Savages devolves into an incoherent mess, and it’s a real shame. Savages could’ve been 2012’s #1 crime drama, but the screenplay destroys any chances of supremacy.

The messy story did annoy me, but I still LOVED Savages. Savages is a brutal and violent crime drama. The action sequences are pretty intense, this film features a good amount of gruesome and bloody gore, and Savages delivers a few enjoyable thrills. The twist ending feels like a giant clusterfuck, but Savages provided plenty of entertainment for me. It could’ve been better, but Savages is still one of my 2012 favorites.

Final Rating: 7/10

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