FILM REVIEW: The Savages
When did Oliver Stone go from bold visionary to befuddled hack? 2004's Alexander would likely be the most popular choice, but I've clearly been in denial.
REVIEW: I thought he may have had some juice left when I first saw the trailer for Savages. This could be something, I thought.
Laguna Beach cannabis growers Ben (Aaron Johnson from Kick-Ass) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch, John Carter) get in over their heads when a Mexican cartel wants a lesson on how to grow such primo weed. But Savages is less than nothing, and I'm dumbfounded the same film-maker responsible for Platoon, JFK and Natural Born Killers could serve up such a sloppy, slobby crime drama.
Exotic locales, death-by-chainsaw, kidnappings, a menacing Benacio Del Toro - you'd think the man who wrote Scarface could put this story together in his sleep.
Perhaps he did, that may explain the excruciating voice-over and performance by Blake Lively (The Town), who plays 'O' (Ophelia), a California sun-flake whose heart is happily torn between sensitive botanist/general over-achiever Ben and hardened army man Chon.
Putting the ickiness of love triads aside for a moment, let me be clear how banal and grating O's narration is.
''Chon is like cold steel, Ben is warm wood,'' she tells us over a pan of the trio fondling among bohemian bedding.
This is about as much insight as we get into any of the characters. Ben's bored with weed and wants to spend more time building irrigation systems in third world countries, Chon is living the dream and wants it to continue, and O?
She has a 'this is our life, it's pretty cool, maybe I'm a slut for loving two guys, who knows' philosophy going on. It means a carefree existence for her, but a bloody irritating time in the cinema for movie-goers, who will want the masked chainsaw-wielding, head-decapitating thugs from the picture's opening scene to hurry back and dispense more of their handiwork.
After all, O tells us just because she's doing the voice-over doesn't mean she survives the movie, ''maybe I pre-recorded it?''
Oh, don't tease honey. If only we could believe for a second that she - or any of the characters - could show such foresight.
Ben and Chon do a runner from a deal with feared Mexican drug baroness Elena (Selma Hayek). She in turn has O kidnapped. The boys then decide to rip off one of her shipments and the picture quickly descends into a violent game of 'who's the dumbest drug dealer?'.
There are loose cannons in play, Benicio Del Toro's psychotic enforcer for Elena, and John Travolta's shady DEA agent, and both have fun with their characters.
Being an Oliver Stone picture, the action is visceral and very violent, but where he once would have studied the protagonists' masculinity, greed, fears or moral corruption, here he just connects the plot to its inevitable desert stand-off. Chon, Ben and O couldn't be more boring.
That we must endure multiple endings only suggests Stone and his fellow scriptwriters had less of an idea of how to wrap up this mess as Lively's character did trying to relate it to movie-goers.
- Kapi-Mana News