Film review: Savages

GRAEME TUCKETT
Last updated 05:00 15/09/2012
savages
UNIMPRESSIVE: The moves are there in Oliver Stone's Savages, but they are slow and clumsy.

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SAVAGES

R16, 129 min.

Directed by Oliver Stone.

Starring Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, Salma Hayek.

Today, Saturday, September 15, is Oliver Stone's birthday. He is 66. Which is far too old to be making films as immature and soulless as Savages.

Made by anyone other than Stone, then maybe this would be a passable - if derivative and completely forgettable - good time. But half the critics and reviewers in the world would observe that Savages plays like an imitation of an Oliver Stone film.

Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson are Chon and Ben. They grow the world's strongest marijuana, which they then sell to the California medical marijuana clubs for a large profit, and illegally out of state for an enormous one.

Chon and Ben are both living with Blake Lively's Ophelia, who prefers to be known as "O", to avoid all the messy Hamlet associations. Into their happy, lucrative, and permanently wasted menage a trois, come the truly nasty forces of villainy, represented here by Benecio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, and a crew of chainsaw and machete wielding extras who go by the name of the Baja Cartel.

Seeking to muscle in to Chon and Ben's business, the cartel kidnap "O", and our two dudes choose to go to war to get her back. They're aided in this by John Travolta's triple-crossing DEA agent, and one of those unlikely super-hackers so beloved of lazy script writers. 

Out of the old familiar bag of tricks, Stone pulls all the trademark flim-flammery. There's the multiple film stocks, the cut aways to the television screens, the colour-saturated slo-mos, the soundtrack of vaguely cool anti-pop hits, and the bloated running time. But it's been a long time since Natural Born Killers and U Turn, which are surely the films Stone is trying to revisit here.

The world has not just moved on, it has passed Stone's style by. Any kid with a Canon 5D and a laptop can make a film look like this, so why does Stone still bother? Worse, the best of Stone's films have always featured scenery chewing acting and scripts that just occasionally went somewhere odd and unexpected. Del Toro and Travolta are both legendary hams, but neither of them can be bothered getting out of auto-pilot in Savages, while the three young stars may look all sorts of cute in their casting shots, but collectively have less chemistry and charisma than one of Juliette Lewis's freckles.

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Watching Stone's Savages is like watching your dad trying to dance at a 21st. The moves might still be there, but they are slow, and clumsy, and he has forgotten that this stuff should be about vitality, not parody.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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