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Savages

2012-09-07 11:13
 
A gripping, cautionary tale of love and drugs that gives you extreme highs and lows, just like its subject.
Savages
What it's about:

Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) are business partners who grow and supply very good weed. They share everything – including their girlfriend O (Blake Lively). When a big drug cartel insists on buying them out, they refuse and suffer the consequences – O is kidnapped.  They must plot her rescue and encounter all sorts of troubles along the way.

What we thought of it:

Despite the film's title and the inherent violence that accompanies the drug trade, Oliver Stone manages to paint a very pretty picture in Savages. It could be described as The OC meets Breaking Bad.

This is of course helped greatly by the attractive cast, but still, these drug dealers lead a pretty sweet and beautiful life for such a high-risk profession.

Ben and Chon's life seems sorted. They run a thriving business growing high-grade marijuana and they've got a beautiful girlfriend O – whom they share.

Everything's peachy until the Mexican cartel, run by Elena (Salma Hayek), insists on roping them into their business. When the duo respectfully declines, Elena is insulted by the refusal and kidnaps O, which she correctly identifies as the boys' "weakness".

While the guys' and the cartel play a cat-and-mouse game, which results in a lot of gory bloodshed,  Elena bonds with O as she's struggling to foster a relationship with her own daughter, Magda.

At one point, Elena says to O: "There's something wrong with your love story, baby." Admittedly it is unconventional, even dirty, but their three-way love affair comes across as totally sincere and plausible.  I never found myself rooting for one or the other, or even wishing they’d both leave her. In this case, three’s company.

Aaron Johnson is amazing as botanist Ben who sees his product as a means to help the world, not an illegal substance, and his inner struggle to marry his idea and the reality of his work is skilfully portrayed. Throughout the movie one is often surprised at what Ben is capable of when in dire straits, but his actions take their toll.

Chon (played by Taylor Kitsch) is evidently less dynamic, and as a former soldier, functions solely with a "fight or flight" response, most often choosing to fight. Chon becomes predictable and his character doesn't seem to undergo any catharsis, which is boring to watch.

Blake Lively is perfunctory in her role as rich girl Ophelia who's desperately searching for attention and excitement. Even as a hostage she doesn't seem particularly fazed by her situation. Her performance is hardly anything to write home about. I'll give it to her that she looked the part, but that's it.

John Travolta, Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro are, on the other hand, sublime in their roles. Travolta pulls off the sleazy cop with great ease – perhaps due to his tarnished public image of late. Salma Hayek is wonderfully unhinged as the gorgeous cartel matriarch with a blood-lust to match while Del Toro is crushingly heartless as Elena's scheming henchman Lado.

This is more than an inevitably sad drug tale. Dreamy panning, colourful beach scenes that look like they're straight out of a Baz Luhrmann movie and intimate close-ups conjure up hedonistic feelings of freedom and release. Even when everything's falling apart, there's a certain beauty in succumbing to the inevitable, and that is heavily played up.

Savages is sensational in the truest sense; There's immense beauty, horror, freedom, turmoil and disappointment to be experienced in these 131 minutes.
 

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