Sunday, July 29, 2012

Savages (2012)




So I finally saw the Oliver Stone's film "Savages", and though I wasn't too sure how I'd like it I came away not hating it.  A film about narcotics trafficking can be one that leaves you kind of numb (no pun intented).  When we see the violence and the horror that drugs do it's hard to look at.  Look at all the other films dealing with drugs or the criminal behavior of dealing drugs.  Most if not all have a sense of doom, and we know that there are no happy endings here.  Oliver Stone on the other hand makes me believe and in some way care about the characters I am about to watch.   Stone does this by showing us sides of his characters that we can identify with.  Our three main protagonists are Ben played by Aaron Johnson, and Chon played by Taylor Kitsch.  Two buddies who are like brothers and have gone into the marijuana growing and selling business.  Both are two sides of a coin.  Ben is the more sensitive and enlightened one of the three.  Chon is the enforcer and has seen his fill of bad things in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I liked the characters and was more interested in their relationship then how they got here, but I digress.

Then there is O, which is short for Ophelia.  Played by Blake Lively she is the love interest for both Chon and Ben.  This alternative lifestyle seems bliss for our characters, and when  a Mexican cartel wants in on their business they do what anyone else would do, and try to run.  What stops them is that the Mexicans kidnap O, and hold her for our boys to do their bidding.

How our protagonists get out of this mess is what's interesting.  O is our narrator for the movie, and it is her voice we hear throughout the film.  This is it's only weak point in the narrative.  I understand why Stone does this, but I do feel that it would be a better film without it.   That's not to say that I didn't like it, but I was a bit distracted by the narration, and it lost me at some points.

Stone is a consummate filmmaker.  He always has been.  He is one of the most visual filmmakers since director Terrence Malick.  Both directors are quite different, and Stone has his visual feel filtered through pop culture.  Malick's isn't as forced and is more natural.

Other things that I didn't buy was how it all was too easy.  Easy to kidnap someone, easy to set-up a illegal business, and how ideal Chon and Ben's business was.  In a neat world that may happen, but not here in the real world.  Their are always others wanting more, and if it was so easy why wouldn't everyone be doing this.  The film glamorizes the southern California drug business and that's what I don't buy.  In a world where everyone is scheming for the almighty dollar their are always scams to be seen.  How everyone comes together and help Chon and Ben seems a little far fetched, and took away the reality of the film, but hey this isn't reality.  It's Hollywood!

The actors are all good here.  Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, and John Travolta all do a good job at chewing up the scenery here.  I feel that in lesser hands this film would not have been as good as it is.  Stone does a good job here, and I enjoyed the switch that he does at the end.  I may not buy it, but then again this is Hollywood and sometimes happy endings are better then the real thing.  After all it's only entertainment.