Review: Savages (2012)

Directed by: Oliver Stone
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively

Savages is one of those films you feel compelled to see on account of the promise the talent behind the camera has been known to showcase. While not quite delivering in the realm of knockout leads that could’ve propelled it to greater heights, one Oliver Stone has instead taken the reins in an earnest attempt to restore his once sterling reputation. In doing so, Stone’s trashy, moreover gratuitous adaptation of Don Winslow’s novel of the same title is a step in the right direction, if a bit of a simultaneous misfire due to its sporadic inanity and eventual predictability.

For starters, something that’s centered around two renowned pot growers reclaiming their (kidnapped) shared girlfriend shouldn’t be boring by any standards. Even less boring should be the road leading up to said rescue from the clutches of a floundering Mexican drug cartel. In getting off on the right foot, Savages initially sidesteps said boredom and comes out swinging with its source material’s supposed mean streak, unleashing upon us quite the introductory sequence involving Ms. Blake Lively’s O going at it with her polar opposite, overtly chivalrous sugar daddies. Unfortunately, the boobs and bloodshed peter out far too quickly as narrative logistics that probably read better than were played out onscreen are thrown at us, of which deal solely with the issues behind the aforementioned abduction and the rivalry between opposing weed factions.

Apart from the brief, if thrilling back-and-forth blood-drenched exchanges, it’s Del Toro’s Lado that remains the most dynamic; his antics collectively accounting for three-quarters of the film’s appeal. Granted he’s just the fictional Baja Cartel’s stereotypical enforcer-type bad boy, but certain aspects of his personality manage to clash wonderfully with Lively’s excellent turn as Savages‘ titular abductee, partially compensating for the shortcomings I’ve briefly touched upon.

As fun as Savages may appear to be on the surface, it simply falls victim to the ol’ “The book is better than the movie!” syndrome. Of course the subversiveness of its subject matter insinuates that a lot of fun can be had inside the theater, this is only partially true, as the film inevitably devolves into something familiar given drug trafficking’s track record in relation to its designated niche in cinema. To put it plainly, and despite all of its gleeful violence and vulgarity, Stone only partially redeems himself here with his latest ADD-addled, pseudo-Tony Scott tribute that can’t quite compensate for the more glaring flaws it wears on its sleeve.

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