Sold as a “return to form” in its ad campaign by evoking Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, Savages comes across as a film that wants to say something, that wants to shock and provoke, but just doesn’t know how. Stone’s longtime reputation as a raconteur and rabble-rouser is almost quaint these days, and just as toothless. This time around, Stone has decided to target the drug trade, focusing on Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson), a couple of California pot growers who’ve made a small fortune in both legal and illegal marijuana dealing. The two men are best friends, but represent different sides of the spectrum. Chon is the shattered, hard-assed ex-marine, Ben the peaceful Buddhist. Together, they share not just a business relationship, but a romantic life with their mutual girlfriend Ophelia (Blake Lively), or O as she calls herself. Things get sticky for the trio when after passing on a business deal with an encroaching Mexican drug cartel — run by Elena (Salma Hayek) and her sadistic righthand man Lado (Benicio Del Toro) — O is kidnapped as a means of making Chon and Ben cooperate. Instead of simply giving in, our duo decides to get even, concocting a plan while attempting to traverse an ever more complicated plot, entangling them, O, Elena, Lado, and on-the-take DEA agent Dennis (John Travolta) in an convoluted web of backstabbing and duplicitousness. The problem with all this is that we never believe they care all that much about the girl and we never care about any of them.
Director: Oliver Stone
Writer: Shane Salerno, Don Winslow and Oliver Stone
Producer: Oliver Stone, Moritz Borman and Eric Kopeloff
Cast: Blake Lively, John Travolta, Aaron Johnson, Benicio Del Toro, Emile Hirsch, Salma Hayek, Taylor Kitsch and Demain Bichir