Today: July 16, 2024

Savages DVD

Savages marks director Oliver Stone’s 19th narrative feature

Savages marks director Oliver Stone’s 19th
narrative feature
(not including his documentary output). Quentin
Tarantino
, who scripted Stone’s Natural
Born Killers
, recently commented that directors are like prizefighters; they
have their time and then they’re past their best. There is a moment in Savages which sees Oliver Stone dancing
across a website with Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively. It’s a fleeting moment but perhaps goes some way to
explaining what is wrong with the film.
It is an attempt by a director to recapture his youth, his heyday and
get back to somewhere near his best.

O (Blake Lively), short for Ophelia, is a
free-spirited, dope-smoking girl living the high-life in Malibu. She has two men in her life; best friends
Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Chon, an ex-Navy SEAL, is the brawn to
Ben’s botanist brains in a dope manufacturing enterprise and they’re the best
in the business. So good that a
Mexican drug cartel, led by Elena (Salma
Hayek
) want in. Making Ben and
Chon and offer they can’t refuse the pair do the only thing possible;
refuse. So Elena dispatches
henchman Lado (Benicio Del Toro) to
kidnap O and hold her until the boys agree to the business proposal. Cue all manner of backstabbing, torture
and corrupt DEA agent Dennis (John
Travolta
) trying to stay on top of it all.

Based on Don
Winslow’s novel, Savages could have been an intriguing premise. Certainly the script wants to draw
comparisons from solid inspiration in the shape of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. Alas Stone misses the point and as such Savages is a
mess.

The film opens
with Lively’s O informing us that: “Just cause I’m telling you this story
doesn’t mean I’m alive by the end of it…it’s that kind of a story”. Perhaps trying to evoke memories of Billy Wilder’s sublime use of
voice-over in Sunset Boulevard this
instead puts O, one of the most one-dimensionally irritating characters in
cinematic memory, front and centre.
And she doesn’t stop spouting over-wrought nuggets of nonsense for the
whole running time. So vacuous is
her delivery and pretentious musings you wonder how Ben and Chon tolerate not
only living with her but sharing their bed with her. A pretty face and sun-kissed skin can surely only last so
long?

And then Savages
seemingly picks up. Throwing us
into a world where Ben and Chon’s ideologies contrast with each other but only
Chon’s is going to get them out of the mess they find themselves in. Violence, as always in a Stone movie,
trumps peaceful diplomacy. The
violence is blood spattered, the look bordering on Tony Scott from the mid ‘90s and you suspect it could become a
piece of forgetful fun. If only
that were the case. By the time
everyone has betrayed each other the end is so overly complicated that it
descends into some of the most contrite and anger inducing narrative devices
you can possibly imagine while high on grade-A drugs.

As if the
combination of Battleship and John Carter weren’t bad enough for
Taylor Kitsch, here he’s asked to do little more than be a Jarhead with a
penchant for a pretty girl and looking good with a gun in his hand. Taylor-Johnson does a reasonable job of
playing a hippy-like stoner, spouting Buddhist philosophy while setting fire to
cartel members. Hayek is a carbon
copy of Cameron Diaz’s ball-busting
football team owner from Stone’s Any
Given Sunday
but certainly does enough to instill a ‘don’t mess with her’
vibe. Del Toro, sporting one of
the most ridiculous hair-dos since Zoolander,
is on pantomime villainy duty, literally twirling his moustache in some
scenes. But the film is truly
sapped of energy by Blake Lively.
So promising in Ben Affleck’s
The Town, here is utterly
deplorable; breathlessly whispering her voice-over into our ears with the aim
of seducing us, as she has Ben and Chon, but only managing to make you want to
turn to drugs to tune her out.

It’s easy to buy
into Chon and Ben sharing O, it’s easy to see why everyone fears Elena, what is
unbelievable about Savages is that with interesting ingredients just how bad a
film has been harvested. Given his
name you’d think a film about drugs would be tailor made for Stone, alas this
is some bad bad weed.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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