Decapitated heads, masked murderers, blood and the Mexican Cartel stench vs California summer days, the ocean wind, three ultra hip lovers and a multi-million dollar beach home. You can only envy the west coast lives of Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon’s (Taylor Kitsch) with their mutual bleach blond mellow pot head girlfriend “O” (Blake Lively)
Chon is the realist, shell shocked, draped in scars and tattoos, Ben the Christ figure, long haired and preachy. The pair grow the best weed in perhaps the entire world, making millions and they do it in a kind and benevolent way. No murders, no strong arming, it’s for the good of mankind. Until a desperate drug cartel led by Elena (Selma Hayek) is she wearing a motorcycles helmut, or hair? Decides it’s time for the tripped out California trio to become part of her very unhappy, shoot you in the face cartel family and share their mad weed skills to help their skunk ganja.
So the wistful fairy tale of beach, love, sex and drugs comes to an end like a MTV turnaround, when jack ass, over bearing Lado (Del Toro) swaggers into the scene. Ruining everyones buzz including mine, but maybe that’s the point. Sadly this isn’t Del Toro at his best, it’s merely a walk through of one his previous performances with all enthusiasm drained away. I understand we all have bad moments, you want to forgive Del Toro through the film, but his sadistic character never gives you the chance.
Clam bakes, free love, and sex turns into stress, guns and threats when the Cartel demand the boys to join up but Chon filled with bravado explains “You want us to eat shit and say it’s caviar” The insulted Cartel give the boys 24 hours to change their minds about Caviar and Shit and what tastes like what.
Ben and Chon’s ( Does this sound like Ben and Jerry meets Cheech and Chong? ) answer is predictably yes, and no.
No, the boys refuse and yes they will change their mind, but no, there will be blood. The friends bake a plan to escape and keep their stress free lifestyles and leave the Cartel a bad memory. The Cartel predictably kidnaps O after the boys let her go to the mall before escaping to Indonesia. Now if my hot wasted girlfriend wanted to go to the mall just before we escape to Indonesia, fleeing an insane Mexican Cartel. My answer would be a loud, NO! But that’s just me, and there would be no movie, if I was in it. Only the last scene of jets, blue skies, and island paradise with me in the arms of a beautiful blond.
Some bullets and unbelievable stupidity added to the herb and O is swept away easily to squalor, chains and bad pizza as a captive of the sexually overt Del Toro. Hardly what our beach pot queen is used to but she wethers it well, quite calmly, almost sleepy. I never felt she was in danger, it all seemed cartoonish, perhaps because of the computer graphics of chopped heads and squirting blood, used to communicate her danger to Ben and Chon.
The plot threads start to weave a heavy sweater on a summer day. You may have forgotten this is an OLIVER STONE film and thats means there will be convolutions and near hallucinations at the least. Everyone has a mask to wear or a scene wearing it. Others get wigs to pull off in moments of stress revealing their masks of control.
The dialogue is weak and reaction shots a bit contrived until Dennis, head shaven (Travolta) thankfully enters the frame and almost single handedly saves the veracity of Stones movie, all with a never diminishing twinkle in his eye.
The stand out scene of the movie is Travolta explaining in his best outraged accusation that Chon has just stabbed a Federal agent. The scene is used in all the trailers to boost the production value of the picture but Travolta isn’t on screen enough to ease the exhaustion that sets into the second act.
So after feeling the pinch of losing millions, handing the merciless Elana 300 pounds of weed and eating every other humiliation she can hand out. The hemp brothers finally decide to take to the offense, which is also offensive from a blood letting perspective as Ben loses his mental grip on his love and kindness buzz, in the middle of a fire fight.
It’s open warfare when Ben descends into Chon’s world of violence and savagery to get O back from the Cartel. You must become a savage to survive, and Stone’s almost successful in making you believe the ride.
Bullets, blood and a whip lash slashing out eyes are some of the gory highlights. Till it’s finally apparent to everyone Elana’s daughter is her weak spot. The boy snag her easily, far too easily, probably should have happened in the first act, but I think every one was too stoned. Get it Oliver Stoned?
And now onto the final hallucination, in a cliche familiar hostage trade scene, mine for yours desert scenario. The boys are shot down murdered, Elena killed by her own men, and anything left alive was certainly killed by an over zealous stuntman or two.
But wait, it was all some sort of flashback, no? A possible alternate flash forward then back? A Stonian trademark hallucination? No one is actually dead? Was it was all a lack of drugs, detox hallucination with a terrible “O” voice over hugging the movie? The boys didn’t inject some crazy Desert Storm poison and die together in a final love montage. O didn’t get to shoot Del Toro in the head several times for raping her?
Cue California music: “Do you, DO YOU, want my love, WOMAN?” A California Federal chopper dancing over the horizon. It’s John grooving Travolta to the rescue of one of the most extended hallucinatory third act endings of any movie.
Travolta picks the scene clean of money, criminals, and acclaim. Saving the loving California trio from a fate worse than a false ending, leaving them free to escape to Africa to live another day. Travolta stands in the lime light and reaps the rewards he justly deserves, being Travolta and a Federal agent.
The lead actors don’t really meet a Stone’s film requirements in skill or panache, and with a script that descends in quality as it’s run time goes up, Savages almost fails.
But what can I say, It’s Oliver Stone.