Plenty of Action from Oliver Stone
SAVAGES (2012/IN THEATERS) Oliver Stone’s latest is getting a seriously mixed reaction from critics and fans but I confess I enjoyed it—in fact, much more than I had expected. I have never been a huge fan of Mr. Stone, apart from The Doors—he seems to miss as much as he hits, but I loved the cinematography in this film and the overall storyline. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Don Winslow and both he and Stone created the screenplay, along with Shane Salerno. I understand that many viewers who loved the book felt the movie fell short of its sharp writing, but having never read it, I have no way to judge. What did work for me was the acting. Let’s start with Salma Hayak who is just plain fabulous as the tough matron of a Mexican drug cartel who has taken over after her husband and sons were killed. Hayak sports a severe Cleopatra style haircut to match her “don’t mess with me” style and it works like, shall we say, gangbusters! Also great are Benicio del Toro as her henchman Lado and John Travolta as the double-dealing U.S. DEA Agent Dennis. The centerpiece of the film is a trio of young, pretty things: Taylor Kitsch (hoping for a third time charm after John Carter and Battleship) as Chon, a two-tour survivor of the war in Afghanistan; his long time friend Ben, played by Aaron Johnson (John Lennon in Nowhere Boy) who has a double major in business and botany, and their shared love interest, O (for Ophelia) played by real life California girl Blake Lively. Chon and Ben have developed a very successful small business growing and selling marijuana that boasts the highest quality to be found anywhere. They have a sweet life in their lovely oceanfront home in Laguna Beach and Ben has even “gone Bono” and begun to foster numerous eco-friendly and life-improving projects in Africa and beyond. However the good life comes to an end– and fast–when the two young entrepreneurs fail to cut a deal with Hayak, resulting in the kidnapping just hours later of their beloved O. The rest of the movie deals with their (bloody) efforts to get her back and our closer look at the methods of Lado and his group. It makes for good entertainment IMHO. Guess I’ll go looking for the book now!
P.S. Watch for a nice turn from Emile Hirsch in a small role. I loved him in Into the Wild and Milk. Here’s hoping his career picks up again sometime soon.