Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Savages - Movie Review

"Savages" is yet another example of Oliver Stone's ability to generate that uniquely identifiable visual style and how he can draw out great performances from a star studded lineup of actors and actresses. This movie is overflowing with guns, drugs, sex, all kinds of attitude, and a cast of characters that is ready to kill each other at the drop of a hat.

The film's narrative is, for the most part, from the perspective of Ophelia (Blake Lively) who has managed to cultivate a relationship with both Ben (Aarong Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) who are best friends and business partners in the California drug trade. We see the trio rise to power by providing a higher quality product than anyone else and with a business savvy that is equally superior to their competition.

The combination of Ben's brain, Chon's muscle, and a DEA agent (John Travolta) on their payroll, allows their business to flourish like no other. Unfortunately, this same success attracts the attention of a bigger and more powerful Mexican drug cartel run by a beautiful and powerful woman named Elena (Salma Hayak).

When a proposed deal between the two parties goes south, Ophelia is kidnapped leaving Ben and Chon to make some very difficult decisions about what to do next. What plays out is an explosive free for all that pits everyone involved against one another as each person works every angle they can to make sure they are the ones that come out on top.

My lasting impression of this movie comes from the brilliant acting performances by John Travolta and Salma Hayak as well as Benicio Del Toro who plays Elena's enforcer, Lado. The three easily rise above the rest of the cast as they show off what has made each of them so special for so many years. The downside to this stellar work is how they also manage to overshadow the three primary actors and especially Taylor Kitsch who continues to prove that he is a one note actor.

If you are familiar with Oliver Stone's previous work, and how could you not be, you will immediately recognize this movie as one of his productions. The visual cues are all there, the frenetic pacing goes all over the place, and the characters are all clearly defined personalities that range from mildly unstable to downright psychotic.

There are parts of this movie that work perfectly and during those moments I felt completely invested in what was happening on the screen. Unfortunately there are just as many parts that slow things down and there were actually several times the movie lost me completely and I found myself sitting there waiting for something else to catch my attention. For the most part this was an enjoyable movie with some intensely brutal action and equally great acting, I just feel like it needed a little more work to reach the heights I had hoped it could achieve.

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