Fierce, ferocious, or cruel; untamed. The definition of the word savages. And when it comes to an Oliver Stone film, this is probably the perfect fit. It’s violent, untamed, ferocious, and perfectly cruel at its heart. This is the Stone film in which we see him back in full form at the top of his glory, with full violence and a thriller that’s bound to entertain. Gone is the all-to-tame Wall Street and now we enter the world of the drug cartels. A world where violence is key, and money is power.
Blake Lively sets the tone for the narrator of the film as “O,” short for Ophelia. As she states from the beginning, just because she’s the one telling the story, doesn’t mean she’s alive at the end of it. She’s a Laguna Beach girl with a free spirit in which she shares her love and body with two successful pot dealers, Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson). We’re talking about two guys who have such a strong bond for each other that they freely share this girl and think nothing of it.
Their care-free days come to a halt when the Mexican Baja Cartel, led by the ruthless Elena (Salma Hayek) demands a merger to join the two of them together so that she can obtain them and increase her profits. Ben hopes that he can retire from the drug operation, but just as he tries to leave the country, Elena kidnaps O. And that’s where the fun begins.
This is Oliver Stone in his top form. I’m not going to say this is one of his best films, but it is certainly one of the films in recent history in which he seems truly engrossed and devoted to. The subject matter suits him incredibly and he has a firm grasp of the material.
The stand out in this film is certainly Benicio Del Toro who plays Lado in the film. He’s a bad-ass. He’s a take no prisoners and do whatever is needed kind of guy. Benicio plays him absolutely perfect. He’s tough, hard, and someone you wouldn’t want to come across if your life depended upon it.
Where the film truly falls apart is the ending. I won’t give away the ending as that’s not fair, but Stone seems unwilling to commit to a firm ending. If only he was willing to take the films mantra of brotherhood above all else and go with it all the way to the end, that would have been vastly more successful. But unfortunately Stone opts for two separate endings that equally fall short when all is said and done.
Savages is a good film, and plenty violent. But definitely most of the violence is implied and not showed on screen. This is one film that if you’re a lover of film, you’ll enjoy and should see in theaters, but ultimately in the end, the end will leave you wanting something more.
FINAL GRADE: B
Reel Film News Movie Review by Bill Ayres