CATEGORIES Movie NewsOn the surface, Oliver Stone's Savages seems to have it all -- lots of sex, gun violence, drug use, beautiful California landscapes and a killer cast -- but once the film starts, it comes raging at you with all the grace of a monkey shooting off a machine gun. It's about as scatter-shot as a movie can get, as if Stone wanted to encapsulate all the "cool" elements of current cinema without any sort of common thread to pull it all together (and I'm generally quite a big fan of Stone, so this is tough to write).
Right off the bat, we're introduced to the main characters Chon (Taylor Kitsch), Ben (Aaron Johnson) and O (Blake Lively). Their polyamorous relationship is explained by showing Chon and O sleeping together, immediately followed by Ben and O sleeping together. It's cool because they all live together, they all love each other, and they grow some of the world's best marijuana. As Blake Lively explains via the worst movie narration since Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Chon "f--ks" and Ben "makes love," thus making the perfect combined boyfriend. Makes sense.
Things inadvertently run afoul with a Mexican drug gang, helmed by Elena (an outstanding Salma Hayek) and her henchman Lado (an equally scene-stealing Benicio Del Toro), who want to get their slice of the drug money pie. And since Chon and Ben make the best damn marijuana in town, the two surfer boys quickly become the gang's target -- and what's their weakness? O. While shopping with what must be drug money (all O seems to do is sleep with the guys, smoke pot and laze around the house), Lado grabs her and takes her back to his makeshift prison cell, where she's held captive until Chon and Ben can come up with money to pay them off. They enlist the help of their federal agent inside man, Dennis (John Travolta), to help them out of the predicament.
Up until this point (about halfway), I was willing to let the little bits of sloppiness here and there slide. Occasional terrible dialogue ("he has war-gasms") and questionable acting (Lively never really looks scared, even in the face of impending imprisonment and sliced-off fingers) could be forgiven, but it is at this precise point that I started rooting for the wrong team. Because Hayek, Del Toro and Travolta (I know, what?) all far outshine the leading triad in terms of acting, every scene dealing with the broken relationship of Ben, Chon and O seems dull and plodding. We get it, you love her.
Stone hits the viewer over the head with their moral dichotomy, too. Ben, a pacifist hippy who used to have dreads, is a Buddhist and doesn't like killing people. Polar opposite Chon is a war vet, and, of course, all war vets love to kill people with abandon. Come to think of it, it's very doubtful that guys like this would be such great pals in real life. Ah, the wonders of marijuana.
Maybe that's why it's so refreshing to watch the back-and-forth banter of Del Toro and Hayek, who obviously both had a ton of fun with these roles. Without these two in the movie, I hate to think of the finished product -- they keep it buoyant when it most certainly would have sank. Between Del Toro's mullet and Hayek's severe bitch stare, I could have watched them for hours.
All of this comes to a head with one of the most unforgivable movie endings in recent memory. I won't reveal anything here, but the theatre groaned in unison. Yep, that bad. Maybe a little bit of Chon and Ben's pot might have helped us all out.