Maksim's Review of Savages
Gritty and captivating, Savages is a most welcome return of Oliver Stone to the dirty and violent grown-up entertainment. With references to the wild 90s, flashy direction and memorable characters, this movie has enough to offer to the fans of Oliver Stone and this genre in particular. Undeservedly bashed by the critics, Savages is quite a successful adaptation of Don Winslow's novel.
Dark and bloody, the screen version of Savages is not as wicked and ferocious as the original novel (or at least as I had imagined). Yet, it successfully thrills and energizes the audience by telling the story of the two best friends John (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson) who run an extremely successful weed business and who face the possible forced "acquisition" by a Mexican drug cartel. Spiced up with enough "indie" lifestyle, the movie becomes controversially stylish from the very first minutes. The love triangle Kitsch-Johnson-Blake, the charity third-world development projects sponsored by the profits from the weed and the whole fair-trade distribution network ensure that the audience will somehow be in favor of John and Ben's business.
With no hesitation, director Oliver Stone releases a mayhem of gritty and bloody violence amidst beautiful landscapes and cinematography. This contrast is hard-hitting and strengthens every single moment of savage violence. The movie develops in a steady pace towards the final part when, probably for the sake of pleasing the mainstream Hollywood, Oliver Stone chooses for the most desired,but least satisfying extended mainstream ending. This, combined with the overall forgettable main acting trio (Kitsch, Johnson and Blake) does have its negative influence on the overall feeling left after the final credits.
It is not that Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson do not perform well, in fact they do a very well job as indie-lifestyle-entrepreneurs, but the mesmerizing performances of the bad trio John Travalta, Benecio Del Toro and Salma Hayek completely outshines them. It is an absolute delight to enjoy the slick and corrupt John Travolta and the terrific and scary performance of Benicio Del Toro as Lado. The latter receives and extra screen attention only to make the audience even more interested in his character. On top of those two characters, Oliver Stones presents the stunning Salma Hayek. Behind the innocent face of Elena and her beautiful Cleopatra-haircut hides the monstrous and merciless leader of a Mexican cartel. The pleasure of watching her being ruthless mafia kingpin and a caring mother,shifts the attention to her for most of the time when she is on screen.
Savages is definitely not as bad as the most of the critics try to label it and it clearly suffers from the too high expectations coming from the fact that it has the Oliver Stone brand. Despite its flaws with the ending, Savages maintains its high level of grown-up entertainment and style. It delivers almost everything that it promises and it is definitely a "must see" if you are a fan of Stone or this particular genre of film-making.