Movie Review – Savaging the daunting myth of civilisation

2012-09-07 14:31

Not for the faint-hearted, Savages is a captivating film with a profound message from the director of Natural Born Killers, writes Gayle Edmunds

Film: Savages (UIP)
Director: Oliver Stone
Featuring: Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek
Rating: 7/10

Oliver Stone is an American director, born and bred, but beyond that too.

He makes films about American culture and almost always about controversial subjects.

Savages, about the illegal drug trade and the lines of supply that lie between Mexico and the US, is his 25th directorial project.

He has made great films, such as Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street and Natural Born Killers.

Lately, his success has been more patchy – he was roasted worldwide for W, an all-too sympathetic portrait of George W Bush, and before that was his foray into historical epic Alexander, which is mostly famous in cinephile circles for Colin Farrell’s bad wig.

His homage to 9/11, World Trade Center, is a soaring piece of sentimentality.

Savages almost returns Stone to his glory days of the likes of Natural Born Killers.

The story is narrated by Blake Lively as O (short for Ophelia), a flower child, ditsy blonde who lives a glorious life beside the seaside with her two boyfriends.

The boyfriends – Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) – grow good weed and have a lucrative drug distribution system. While Chon chills out in the sun, Ben uses his portion of the proceeds to help the poor and desperate.

Life is good.

But when you play in a murky pool with big, bad drug sharks, you eventually get bitten.

A Mexican cartel comes north and colonises the men’s business.

Under the impression they have clean hands, they try to keep them that way, but the drug business is not for sissies, and Ben and Chon are forced to be brave, especially when O is kidnapped.

Stone doesn’t know how to make short films and the pacing on this might irritate those who prefer the speed of flicks like The Transporter or the Bourne series.

However, he needs the time to build the picture – from a sunny seaside house filled with boys’ toys, bags of weed and happy memories, to the underbelly of the drug business represented by Benicio Del Toro, He is Lado and if he’s ringing your doorbell, chances are you will be in trouble.

Savages is an interesting film with a message: if you are in a dirty business, your hands eventually drip with blood, no matter how you spin it to yourself or your friends.

This film barely bothers to talk about the degradation drugs visit on users. Rather, it concentrates on that delivered on the supply chain – just as shocking.

By the end, it’s really hard to have sympathy for any of these characters because under all the trimmings, the trio of Ben, Chon and O are as savage as Lado and his boss, Elena, when it comes down to survival.

» Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala

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