Saturday, 15 September 2012

Film Review: "Savages" (2012)

"Just because I'm telling you this story doesn't mean I'm alive at the end of it. This could all be pre-recorded and I could be talking to you from the bottom of the ocean. Yeah, it's that kind of a story. Because things just got so out of control… I looked up the definition of the word savage. It means cruel, crippled, regressed back to a primal state of being. One day, maybe, we'll be back. For now, we live like savages... beautiful, savages." This is at the heart of Savages. This crime thriller film directed by Oliver Stone, based on the novel of the same name by Don Winslow, adapted by Shane Salerno, Winslow and Stone. The film is about two Pot growers, Ben and Chon, who face off against the Mexican drug cartel who kidnapped their shared girlfriend.

The film features an ensemble cast including Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, Benicio del Toro, and John Travolta. The performances were some what mixed, I was overall pleased with the performances of John Travolta as the corrupt DEA agent Dennis and Benicio del Toro as cartel enforcer Miguel "Lado" Arroyo. Both of their performances were the only enjoyable performances through out the film. Travolta was as witty and humorous as usual, making me laugh at his jokes and entertaining me. Del Toro was just menacing and threatening as his psychotic character himself, making himself mesmerizing and I could not keep my eyes off him. I was somewhat disappointed with the performances of Taylor Kitsch as Chon, Aaron Johnson as Ben, Blake Lively as Ophelia "O" Sage and Salma Hayek as Elena S├ínchez. I felt Kitsch reminded me too much of the typical Hollywood bad boy roles and I was displeased. I felt Johnson seemed not credible enough but tried to live the part and be as authentic throughout the film. He has gained a lot of maturity since Kick Ass (2010). Lively was somewhat bland throughout the film, even in the explicit sex scenes with the two leading male actors. But she was smart and sad precisely because she plays O as such a broken, needy little soul. Lastly Hayek was somewhat unexpected for the role of the ruthless female drug lord and was not strong enough. But she brought her best for the scenes when she was speaking in Spanish and yelling and cursing.

Stone's sensibility is white-hot and personal. As much as he'd like us to believe that his camera is turned outward on the culture, it's vividly clear that he can't resist turning it inward on himself. This wouldn't be so troublesome if Stone didn't confuse the public and the private. For all its surface passions, Savages never digs deep enough to touch the madness of such events, or even to send them up in any surprising way. Mr. Stone's vision is impassioned, alarming, visually inventive, characteristically overpowering. But it's no match for the awful truth. However, seeing this movie once is not enough. The first time is for the visceral experience, the second time is for the meaning that can be found.

Simon says Savages receives:

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