Travolta, Blake Lively, Trevor Donovan, Demian Bichir, Salma
Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, Mia Maestro
The sooner you immerse yourself in Savages’ unlikely premise,
a utopian love triangle interrupted by a brutal drug cartel,
the sooner you can allow yourself to enjoy two hours inside
the violent mind of Oliver Stone.
Savages is simplified Blow if Johnny Depp’s “Boston” George
Jung had a temper, an arsenal, and soldiers; it’s Natural Born
Killers with less clinical insanity and more abnormal passion.
Most importantly, it’s a unique crime thriller that captures
the very real emotions of rage and love, and slides them into
a universe with two enterprising weed dealers operating in
Laguna Beach, Calif. as polar opposites fighting to rescue the
trophy girlfriend they willingly share.
Yes, Blake Lively is almost as boring in the movie as she is
in the film’s trailers. It takes a while, but once Ophelia
(Lively) is kidnapped, you’re absolutely ready for the savages
to do some savage things. Fortunately, Benicio del Toro
alleviates Lively’s insipid narration with his spirited
interpretation of a charismatic and ruthless enforcer. He’s
having a blast exaggerating Lado, because in a criminal-driven
story, the audience needs to identify the worst of the bunch.
Without a doubt, del Toro completely steals Savages from an
ensemble cast featuring Salma Hayek, John Travolta, Emile
Hirsch (Alpha Dog), and rising stars Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass)
and Taylor Kitsch (Battleship, John Carter).
Kitsch’s intense performance as Chon is redemption for the
young actor after leading two of 2012’s monumental flops. Fans
of NBC’s critically acclaimed (but ratings deprived) “Friday
Night Lights” series will remember Kitsch’s Tim Riggins, and
will be delighted to see the familiar strength and silence
receive a boost with Chon’s paranoid aggression. He’s a
wrecking ball in each scene, threatening to erupt once all
words are exhausted.
It takes nearly 70 minutes for Savages to initiate the battle
we knew was coming. It’s a relief, especially if you fear all
the action was wasted in previews for the film. The film is
well paced, hitting clever checkpoints that build to Ben
(Johnson) and Chon’s attack on Elena (Hayek). All the scenes
in between are loaded with torture, a little gore, and
But don’t expect more complexity to the characters after
they’re all introduced. That’s not a bad thing, but it does
border awkward when considering Elena’s contradictory behavior
as the cartel queenpin. She receives foot rubs and applies
facial masks while controlling an inherited drug business
while wirelessly orchestrating kidnappings while longing to be
a doting mother to an estranged daughter. She’s a rich
character, with diverse wants and needs, who could have been
the protagonist. But Elena is simplified, reduced to
contrasting Hayek’s exquisite beauty against Elena’s sadistic
This is a personal peeve, but it’s never logical to me when
Latino characters speak English to one another with thick
Spanish accents. Why aren’t they speaking Spanish when they’re
clearly more comfortable with their native tongues? Most
recently, Colombiana did the same and it was a nuisance then.
Yet, the most polarizing aspect of this film is its
conclusion. Stone and his writing cohorts, Shane Salerno and
Don Winslow (the author whose book this film is based upon),
have the audacity to leave Savages with two endings. The
audience is asked to decide upon which conclusion they prefer,
but it feels like a cop out. Two endings is no ending, and the
execution derails the momentum of all the decisions that led
the characters to the end.
Despite its straightforward approach, Savages is an
exceptional offering from an expert filmmaker, blending
effortless humor, well-executed irony, and unapologetic action