Today: July 17, 2024
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Savages

By – Christa Ktorides – The once great Oliver Stone serves up another frustratingly half-baked film and this time even he seems unclear on what he is trying to say.

By – Christa Ktorides

The
once great Oliver Stone serves up another frustratingly half-baked film and
this time even he seems unclear on what he is trying to say.

Is it an edgy crime thriller or a daft, silly caper? Who knows? It’s fairly
obvious that Stone is as clueless as the audience.

We begin with leggy Gossip Girl Blake Lively
swishing her golden hair about in the sunshine as she fills us in on who’s who
with an ethereal voiceover. It’s
amusing to note that said voiceover informs us that just because she is
speaking doesn’t mean that she is alive at the end of the film – which is a
line almost exactly lifted from her Savages
co-star Aaron Johnson in Kick-Ass.

Lively is O, short for Ophelia. O lives a
boho lifestyle with former Navy SEAL Chon (Taylor
Kitsch
) and hippy Ben (Aaron Johnson). Lifelong pals Ben and Chon are
millionaires thanks to the marijuana farm that they run from Laguna Beach,
California. O is in a relationship with Chon. O is also in a relationship with
Ben. This threesome live an idyllic lifestyle – there are no petty jealousies
amongst them – Ben is the brains with the social conscience and Chon is the
muscle, un-fazed when it comes to dealing out brutal punishment to those that
cross them. This idyll is about to be shattered when the Mexican Baja Cartel
insist upon a partnership so that they may learn the secrets of Ben and Chon’s
“primo weed” and harness their expertise.

This does not sit well with our heroes
(yes, drug dealers are heroes here) and they attempt to get out of the business
altogether and leave it to the cartel. This arrangement is not to the liking of
the ruthless head of the cartel Elena (Salma
Hayek
) who instructs her unhinged enforcer Lado (Benicio Del Toro) to kidnap O in an attempt to force the boys to
agree to her demands.

Performance-wise our three main
protagonists are fine. In truth they aren’t required to do much but look
blandly pretty. It’s hard to feel much for any of them and one is left with an
overriding feeling that any character work was left by the roadside. There’s no
real connection to the audience or indeed to each other. We’re meant to believe
that they would do anything for one another but Chon and Ben seem unlikely
friends and O isn’t interesting enough or smart enough to warrant such devotion
in her men. Johnson is the most likeable of the three and rivals Daniel Radcliffe for reaction shots.
Lively and Kitsch do their best with the material but are saddled with some
truly shonky dialogue. At one point Lively is left to deliver the dud line,
“Chon doesn’t have orgasms, he has wargasms.” Yeah. It doesn’t help that Lively
interrupts proceedings frequently with her bored, stoned voiceover work.

Hayek at least seems to be having fun as
the glamorous but deadly Elena. A drug lord (or lady) who just wants to be
loved by her estranged daughter. John
Travolta
turns up as duplicitous DEA agent with a dying wife but again is
given little to do. It is Del Toro however who is having the most fun and
appears to be in an entirely different film altogether. His lecherous,
moustache twirling villain is one of those performances that is either genius
or dreadful, it is honestly hard to tell.

Savages is too unsure of itself to
convince as either a thriller or a Tarantino-style black comedy. The most
offensive thing about it is that there is a better film in there fighting to
get out. Utterly forgettable but prettily made its a wasted opportunity and a
sad waste of the fine talent involved.

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