Savages - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
OLIVER Stone describes his latest film as a neo-Western that fuses elements of Californian beach movie with Mexican drug movie.
The ensuing film plays to many of the director’s strengths and is an enjoyably loopy romp. But it’s overall impact is blunted by two surprisingly careless creative choices.
Of these, Blake Lively’s portrayal of the supposedly sympathetic O fails to provide the film with the heart it needed. Lively forms one third of a trio of beautiful people (completed by Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch’s marijuana dealers) whose kidnap by a ruthless Mexican cartel kickstarts an escalating war of attrition between the two parties.
As narrator, O presumably warrants our sympathy as the innocent caught up in the mix. But her character is spoilt and uninteresting to say the least, leaving a vacuum where the film’s heartbeat should be.
Far more interesting is Kitsch’s psychologically damaged Iraq vet whose violent inclinations make him a perfect adversary for the cold-blooded cartel, led by Salma Hayek’s heartless queen bitch and policed by Benicio Del Toro’s soulless enforcer.
Had the movie spent more time examining this dynamic, it may have become a classic for it’s arguably at its best when concentrating on this head to head while simultaneously passing its own cynical observations on the futility of the war on drugs and the battle scars of the war on terror.
Stone doesn’t shirk from showing the brutality of the cartels and, for the first three quarters of the film at least, succeeds in raising the tension and living up to the savagery inherent in the film’s title.
In doing so, he also draws cracking performances from Del Toro, Kitsch and John Travolta, as a corrupt DEA official.
But the second careless creative decision comes during the film’s finale, set during an appropriately Western-style stand-off in the desert. It’s here that Stone attempts to be clever and ironic but winds up with egg on his face; a rewinding of the climactic events proving too gimmicky and too Hollywood for the film’s own good. Some viewers will undoubtedly feel cheated.
It’s a shame for Savages has a lot to recommend it.
Running time: 130mins
UK Release Date: September 21, 2012