Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Saturday, July 7, 2012


A Little Tame

Rated: R  Strong brutal and grisly violence, some graphic sexuality, nudity, drug use and language throughout.
Release Date: July 6, 2012
Runtime:  2 hours 10 minutes

Director: Oliver Stone
Writers: Shane Salerno, Don Winslow, Oliver Stone, from the novel by Don Winslow
Cast:  Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Blake Lively, John Travolta, Emile Hirsch

SYNOPSIS: A young idealistic man and his long time combat veteran friend run a thriving marijuana business in Laguna Beach. When they refuse the networking and distribution offer of a Mexican Cartel, Ben and Chon find themselves at the bad end of a power struggle involving the kidnapping of the girl they both love.

REVIEW: Platoon and JFK writer/director Oliver Stone returns to the helm to bring us a tale of love, sacrifice, and the drug trade. The always working writer/director turns away from the steel and glass of the east coast's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps to the hot sands and temperate waters of the west coast for the recession-proof cannabis business of Savages. Written by Shane Salerno (Aliens vs Predator: Requiem), Don Winslow (The Death and Life of Bobby Z), and Oliver Stone himself, Savages delves into the backdrops of this entrepreneurial industry and the lives of those who run it.
Multiple Middle Eastern tour combat veteran Chon (Taylor Kitsch, John Carter of Mars) and his longtime double major botanist/business friend Ben (Aaron Johnson, Kick-Ass!) have a moment of enlightenment one day to grow the best cannabis on the west coast. Chon smuggles in the best seeds from Afghanistan and Ben tinkers with the crops until their product is the most sought after. Co-habitating with their shared love Ophelia (Blake Lively, Green Lantern), nicknamed "O", the trio enjoys a thriving, non-violent drug trade, selling to medicinal facilities and taking advantage of a growing network of satisfied growers, distributors, and customers. When Ben and Chon are offered a partnership by a Mexican Drug Cartel looking to expand their own business, Ben and Chon refuse and are given 24 hours to reconsider the offer. When Ben, Chon, and O plan to go off the grid, O is kidnapped by Lado (Benicio Del Toro, The Wolfman) and his men under the order of cartel head Elena (Salma Hayek, Grown Ups). Faced with either giving up their business or losing their girlfriend, Ben and Chon opt for a third option of raiding Elena's business for cash and disrupting her organization in a bloody manner in order to get O back.

What starts off with as a narrative from Blake Lively’s character outlining her relationship to both war-wearing Chon and the Buddhist idealist Ben, and their dreamy surreal lives and growing business of growing cannabis, quickly sours when the businessmen are offered a partnership deal from the Mexican cartel that they shouldn’t refuse – but do refuse to bloody consequences. Oliver Stone depicts grisly beheadings of minions or disgraced partners at the hand of Del Toro’s Lado, while outlining a more complex plot for multiple political and business back-stabbings. At the heart, though, are personal relationships. We know why Ophelia is with both Ben (the spirit and warm wood) and Chon (the earth and cold metal) per Ophelia’s narrative. Salma has a tough road with familia due to the murders of her husband and two of her sons, leaving her with an estranged distant relationship with her daughter living in California. Many will sacrifice much for business, but will sacrifice everything for family.

While the camera work is both intimate and grand, it is fine acting from key players that bleeds through. Taylor Kitsch, having to needlessly rebound after a less-than-stellar box office for John Carter of Mars, brings in a strong steely performance as the war veteran who knows that violence is the only language that the Mexican cartel truly understands. Aaron Johnson is almost unrecognizable from his Kick-Ass! Days as the gentle bohemian business mastermind who is forced to understand that even Buddhist teachings allow for violence when necessary. Salma Hayek brings in a solid performance as always, mixing her beauty with a dash of brutality. But the actor who steals the show is Benicio Del Toro as the shady Lado, the right-hand enforcer to Elena. He character is understated, efficient, and matter-of-fact, playing all sides for his own interests while he relishes the chaos he creates in an attempt to restore order. John Travolta (From Paris With Love), playing the corrupt DEA agent Dennis who gets a cut of Ben and Chon’s action, plus high quality cannabis for his dying wife. One of the best scenes in the film is a dialogue between Lado and Dennis in Dennis’s kitchen where he must voice his worth to Lado before Lado assassinates him. Another scene, more violent this time, has Lado interrogating a snitch with his men, Ben and Chon, and Elena and Ophelia looking on.

As stated earlier, Blake Lively’s Ophelia serves as the narrator through the film, her voice sedating relaying the information needed to get through to the next point of the story. Whether the narrative was critical to the book (I have not read it), I feel the narrative served as a cheat and a lazy way to propel the story. Sure, Martin Sheen’s Captain Benjamin Willard serves as his own narrator, journaling the events he could barely comprehend. William Holden’s Joe Gillis did the same thing in Sunset Blvd Hell, even Savages own Aaron Johnson lent his voice talents to his too-human superhero in Kick-Ass!. But Ophelia states from the very beginning and over and over that she may not be alive at the end of the tale, as if to talk us into a way of thinking. That interior voice may have worked on parchment, but loses a little something in this story’s telling.

Oliver Stone is one of the great directors of our time, striking at the imagination with films like JFK and Born on the Fourth of July. With Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and, now, with Savages, Stone may have lost a little of what made his work so provocative in the past. The work is still good, but some of the choices do not resonate like they once did. Just the ending alone may make you question why you sat through the film.

Maybe satisfying, maybe not, Savages will certainly polarize your opinion of the film’s story, direction, and outcome. The acting is solid across the board, and the pace picks up nicely midway through the film. But to put Savages in the canon of Oliver Stone’s other works may be to tarnish all of the great works he has directed to date.

WORTH: Rental

No comments:

Post a Comment