Drug tale not for the squeamish
Director: Oliver Stone
My first response to anyone who asked me if they should go and see this film would be a question: "Do you have a strong stomach?"
Because not only is there plenty of blood, but I found some of the scenes of graphic violence difficult to watch.
Not that I'd necessarily call the violence gratuitous; if anything, a lot of it seemed quite realistic given the subject matter.
It's just not subject matter that will be everyone's cup of tea.
The movie, based on a novel by Don Winslow, has an interesting premise. It's about two men, friends since their school days, with very different skills and personalities, who set up a successful business together.
Chon (Taylor Kitsch) is a former Navy Seal, an Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran who has also worked as a mercenary and isn't squeamish about going down the path of force to solve a problem. His buddy, Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a botanist and Buddhist who has worked in aid projects in poor countries. Together they establish a highly successful independent cannabis-growing operation and enjoy living in luxury in Laguna Beach, California, with their friend O (short for Ophelia, played by Blake Lively, who narrates the movie).
It's when the Baja drug cartel, based in Tijuana, Mexico and headed by the truly frightening Elena Sanchez (Salma Hayek) decides it wants to establish a partnership with the cartel, taking advantage of the pair's well-developed distribution networks, that things go wrong, and turn extremely violent.
Chief perpetrator of that violence is the malevolent and treacherous Lado (Benicio del Toro), Elena's main enforcer, who comes to the fore as kidnappings and Navy Seal-style sabotage operations take centre stage in an increasingly bloody battle.
It's all pulled together neatly and reasonably satisfactorily at the end, having moved through some truly gritty explorations of the drug industry and the desperate lengths those involved will go to to protect their patch.
But it's not a classic, by any means, and if graphic violence makes you look away, this won't be a pleasant experience.
The Timaru Herald