If you are looking for gut wrenching excitement in a movie with a brilliant cast and a creative storyline then choose Savages, this year’s most powerful action filled drama to date. Intense and intriguing, the film has scenes so extreme that I felt myself gripping the theatre arm rests. If you think the drug wars were crazy in No Country for Old Men, Traffic or even cable’s “Breaking Bad“, they are scuffles compared to this film.
The movie centers on best friends Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) who have made a business with a special strain of marijuana that delivers a better high than anything on the market. Supplying several legitimate businesses and many illegal, the pair has built themselves a pretty life for themselves. Joined by their playful gorgeous partner Ophelia (Blake Lively), the threesome feel they’re on top of the world. When a Mexican cartel gets wind of the growing business that has cut into their drug trafficking, a war of nerves and violence begins.
The film takes many twists and turns on it’s way to confrontations that are tense and vicious. From the opening scene that’s bloody and horrifying to a surprise closing the film moves along at a fast clip, slowing only to build characters and enhance the plot.
Although it’s not extreme, the three-way love story gets edgy emoting a strong chemistry between Lively, Kitsch and Johnson with her in the arms of both men. The trio has very different personalities from super botanist Ben who wants ‘peace and love’, Chon’s dark ex-mercenary attitude to Ophelia’s drug induced free spirit. When they come face to face with Lado (Del Toro) a crazed brute that kills without conscience and Elena (Hayek) a power mad drug lord who has no sympathy for anyone who gets in her way, the three have to snap into bloody reality.
Savages makes it’s case with some awesome performances by several actors in the cast including Taylor Kitsch, Benicio Del Toro and John Travolta. The three actors dominate the screen with powerful characters that are brazen, merciless and brutal. Kitsch creates a strong character with an unyielding sense of control that when he faces Del Toro’s Lado things get very vicious. Del Toro fashions his Lado into an unpredictable killer who stops at nothing to bring his opposition down. But the crafty DEA agent Dennis played by Travolta steals the show playing both sides in a tricky game that can get him killed if he slips while walking a very thin line between the two drug factions.
Oliver Stone takes his direction of Savages to a new level of excitement that his previous films have seldom reached. Digging into the crevices of a Mexican cartel’s influence on America though this fictional account of drug wars caused by ventures who fight for the cream of an out of control illegal business, he brings forth a stirring production. While Stone has been lauded for his work on touchy docudramas like JFK, Nixon and W here he steps aside to take a look at a real burning subject, ‘the war on drugs,’ that has nearly died in the United States. His sharp-edged ability to take reality and present it fictionally to get his point across shows in Savages that he has no equal in that department.
Savages has been rated R by the MPAA for strong brutal and grisly violence, some graphic sexuality, nudity, drug use and language throughout. The film may be a little over the top for the meek and timid.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A violent heart pounding drama that hits ‘home’. (B)
Additional Film Information:
- Cast: Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Selma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta and Blake Lively
- Directed by: Oliver Stone
- MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal and grisly violence, some graphic sexuality, nudity, drug use and language throughout
- Genre: Thriller
- Running Time: 2 hr 10 min
- Opening Date: July 6, 2012
- Distributed by: Universal Pictures
- Reviewed at: AMC Veterans 24, Tampa, Florida July 2, 2012