With Savages, Oliver Stone has achieved a nice bookend to his career-starting turn as a Scarface screenwriter. That 1982 film is considered one of the greats. Does his latest sit in that realm? As Movie Fanatic composes our movie review the answer is: Not quite, but that doesn’t mean the movie isn't a thrilling ride. For one, as seen in the Savages poster, it has one killer cast.
The film stars Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson as a couple of Laguna Beach marijuana growers. The two share a girlfriend named O (Blake Lively) and our story gets extremely complicated and dangerous when they refuse to comply with a Mexican drug lord (Salma Hayek) and her request to include her in their business. With their refusal, a link soon arrives in their email account. When the two guys click on the email, an image of O appears as she is being held captive.
They enlist the help of a DEA Agent on their payroll (John Travolta in a stellar supporting role), who quickly tells them to do whatever is asked by the cartel and not to ruffle any feathers. Losing O will be the least of their concerns, he vehemently tells them.
Based on the bestselling novel by Don Winslow, this is a story firmly in Stone’s wheelhouse. The filmmaker has crafted something equally as topical as it is triumphant. With Mexican cartels further wreaking havoc inside the U.S., Stone’s story appears ripped from today’s headlines.
The performances of the actors run the gamut as seen in the Savages trailer. We appreciate the idea of Hayek’s drug lord, but there are too many scenes where she is over the top. She should be holding back a bit. Travolta, as we stated, is incredible. It’s nice to see the actor just have fun for the first time onscreen in several years. Benicio Del Toro and Demian Bichir are both fantastic as Hayek’s henchmen. In fact, the scenes she shares with those two are her best.
A welcome surprise is the powerful screen presence of Kitsch. After so much anticipatory belief that the former Friday Night Lights star would be the next big thing, he had to be disappointed with the reception of John Carter and Battleship. In Savages, he is brutish, bona fide and electric. Kitsch commands every scene he is in and if he is not a movie star after Savages, then it is not from a lack of talent as shown in Stone’s sizzler.
Savages is a full throttle thriller and a solid investment to see on the big screen. Some may have difficulty stomaching the film’s ending. We do not want to give anything away, but there may be some head scratching going on in the theater. Or, you can see it as Stone does -- a closure to his drug business epic from several points of view. Which is real and which is fantasy… that is for the viewer to decide.
All told, Stone returns to fantastic form with his latest and we believe the filmmaker is inspired anew.