Savages: Review

Posted 11/02/2013


There are no true heroes or true villains in ‘Savages.’ As the unflinchingly violent film’s title suggests, its characters are motivated purely by primal instincts: lust, greed, rage, and fierce protectiveness of loved ones. From Taylor Kitsch’s traumatized war veteran to John Travolta’s corrupt DEA agent to Salma Hayek’s drug kingpin (er, queen-pin?), every member of Oliver Stone’s amazing ensemble swings from caring to cutthroat, depending on the situation. The result is a gripping, unpredictable, and often unsettling film that affirms Stone’s status as one of the great filmmakers of our time.

‘Savages’ is narrated by Ophelia, a.k.a. O (Blake Lively), the shared girlfriend of California-based marijuana growers Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Kitsch). When a dangerous Mexican drug cartel wants in on their business, gentle Ben and ex-military man Chon balk…until O is kidnapped by the cartel, and they are forced to do the ruthless Elena (Hayek)’s bidding to save their lady love’s life. The friends find themselves caught in a web of lies and double-crossing, and must become as brutal and conniving as their adversaries to survive.

The violence in ‘Savages’ is extremely graphic—but it’s never gratuitous, since the movie is all about showing just how inhuman human beings can be. The film is beautifully shot, and its ensemble cast turns in powerful performances—especially Benicio del Toro as Lado, a heartless enforcer for the cartel. And the nail-biter twists and turns shift your sympathies around to even the most unsympathetic characters. If you’re squeamish at the sight of blood, you probably won’t be able to deal with certain scenes. But if you can deal with the gore factor, you’ll be thoroughly engrossed—and affected—by ‘Savages.’

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