Wild 1990s throwback has savage streak

17:00, Sep 21 2012
DOPE SMOKE: Blake Lively as O and Benicio Del Toro as Lado in Savages

Ever get the feeling you’ve fallen through a portal in time?

You know what I mean; you have this deja vu-like sensation that you’re re-living something from your past?

I had it the other day watching director Oliver Stone’s latest, Savages(R16).

For one reason or another the brightly coloured, ultra-violent crime thriller took me right back to the early 1990s.

It almost felt like a sequel to the infinitely superior Tony Scott film True Romance.

Like that film, Savages features fruity colours, a bit of sex, lots of guns, lashings of brutality and an absolute monster truckload of drugs.


Set in California, Savages tells the story of a couple of blokes named Ben and Chong who grow the world’s best cannabis and are both in a relationship with Ophelia, a rich girl who has strayed to the wrong side of the tracks and goes by the nickname of O.

Battleship star Taylor Kitsch plays Chon, while Aaron Johnson of Kick Ass fame plays Ben and Blake Lively appears as O.

Life is sweet for the trio, who live in a primo pad overlooking Laguna beach and make a killing out of their hydroponic trade. Of course, this being a Stone film, things don’t stay peachy for long and before you can say “it’s all too good to be true” a chainsaw-wielding Mexican drug cartel is trying to muscle in on Ben and Chong’s business.

For reasons I don’t really remember, our heroes spurn the Mexicans’ overtures which leads to a phenomenal amount of violence and the gangsters from south of the border, led by Salma Hayek’s Elena, kidnapping O.

On the upside, Savages is an enjoyably morality-free, guns-blazing, lurid, sun-baked throwback of a film with a few entertaining performances.

Lively delivers the requisite heat as O while Benicio De Toro is despicably sensational as an evil gangland enforcer and John Travolta is a laugh as a triple crossing cop. Kitsch and Johnson also share a likable on-screen bond.  On the downside, Savages takes a little long to hit its stride, is mindlessly and gratuitously violent and, as I’ve already said, feels like it turned up in a time capsule.

I haven’t read the book the film is based on but I’d be surprised if it was as vicious as what Stone has put on screen.

Seriously, it’s like he went out of his way to include as much cruelty as possible without the film turning into farce.

The fact Savages is an R16 begs the question as to just how much further Stone would have to have gone to get an R18 classification.

Once upon a time I would literally run to see the latest film from Stone.

Salvador blew me away, Platoon nfleft me reeling, Wall Street got me thinking, Talk Radio rendered me speechless, Born on the Fourth of July made me cry and JFK had me calling for justice.

Others will disagree, but by my reckoning the man who was once the world’s most important film-maker went off the tracks when he took Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay for Natural Born Killers and made the headline-grabbing but utterly unloveable film of the same name.

Since then the no-longer hip director has been impersonating not only the likes of the recently deceased Scott, and Tarantino but, dare I say it, himself.

The result, much like Savages, has been a long, drawn-out and undistinguished end to what was once a brilliant career.

Bottom line: Bloody, brutal and reasonably entertaining.