Savages, R18, 132 mins
Thrashing waves of Laguna Beach may look idyllic but on the doorstep of paradise lay drama much grittier than the sand.
Heads roll from the start in Oliver Stone's drug-fuelled, violent thriller.
Ben (Aaron Johnson), Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ophelia (a vague Blake Lively) are enjoying a life of luxury and leisure in California, funded by their lucrative business selling a particularly strong strain of marijuana.
They are soon jolted out of their drug-addled dream and presented with a sinister business "proposition" from the deadly Mexican Baja Cartel. Ophelia, Ben and Chon exist in a tangled love triangle, so when Ophelia is kidnapped by the cartel, her lovers use any methods necessary to retrieve her - hopefully unharmed.
The most interesting scenes involve the more vibrant characters, led by Salma Hayek as a painfully convincing Elena, the steely head of the cartel. Her enforcer is Lado, a withering Benicio Del Toro in a role that facilitates much of the bloodshed.
The "baddies" are rounded off with corrupt DEA agent Dennis (John Travolta), who constantly talks his way out of trouble.
Torture and mutilation are the name of the game here and Stone (writer of legendary Scarface) milks it by employing dramatic visual techniques, like black and white and webcam footage. However, slim backstories and a few lacklustre performances meant I was often rooting for the bad guys.
- Sunday Star Times