johnlink ranks SAVAGES (2012)

It’s been probably a month and half since I watched a movie with some kind of pedigree. Probably CAPTAIN PHILLIPS in the beginning of October, though I could be missing something. I needed to watch something with character, decent writing, and an interesting story arc. This was Oliver Stone’s drug/revenge opus, and it was something I wanted to see for sure.


I watched SAVAGES (2012) on 11.20.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

Chon (Taylor Kitch) is a war-vet tough guy. Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is the softy pot-smoking kuymbia dude. They both have a sexual relationship with O (Blake Lively). O serves as our narrator, as she tells us about the success of her two lovers, who are best friends. They are primo pot growers and dealers. They have a wonderful relationship with all of their clients, and signify the goodness of the pot smoking community. They are a war hero and a philanthropist, respectively, who have absolutely no negative impact on the world in which they deal drugs.

But, they get too big. The huge Mexican cartel (which gets heavy-handedly compared to Wal-Mart), is trying a hostile takeover. They want to enter this new territory and dis-plant (pun intended) the small independent dealer. They want to pretend to be good for the pot community, but they really just want to make big profit while stomping on the necks (or severing the necks) of their competition. This group is led by Elena (Salma Hayek, in one of her most robust performances) and muscled by Lado (Benicio Del Toro).

What works about this movie is that it begins muddled by cliche, and works its way to something more dynamic. The film opens with O telling us that she is the narrator, but she may not live. We get way too much exposition from her, but it doesn’t drag the movie because Stone is smart enough to pull the narrative along quickly. We learn she loves the two lead males, but one is her gentle lover and the other is her violent sexual aggressor. The cartel comes along and threatens their well being. Ben wants to retire, Chon wants to fight. They compromise on running, satisfying neither, and that gets O kidnapped. The thrust of the movie, then, is Ben and Chon trying to get O back.

What complicates it all is the nuance. Elena likes O. She has a daughter herself. Despite ordering violent decapitations, she is a softy at heart. Her muscle, Lado, is on a long leash. He causes all sorts of death, and he ultimately takes his independence too far. Planting himself fully in the middle of this is FBI agent Dennis (John Travolta). He has a wife on her deathbed and two children to take care of. But he has allowed himself so far into the muddy and corrupted waters of the drug world that he puts his own life in danger. Travolta’s scene at his wife’s side is one of his best bits of acting in many a year.

Stone weaves a picture which is more complex than it first appears. These characters all have individual wants. O proves to be an untrustworthy narrator, something which throws the last act into a sudden (and possibly unfair) bit of turmoil. Does Stone cheat us in the ending? Maybe. But he has earned that right by the time we get there.

This is a movie which argues for marijuana legalization without ever explicitly saying so. It shows a side of good (represented by Americans, naturally) who are only violent when the forces of evil require them to be so. It shows a side of evil (Mexicans, serving as an easy target) who are way too corrupt to ever accept our potentially civilized way. As someone who has no dog in the fight, this serves an an interesting allegory. And, even if you don’t care to see it for its moral implications, this is a movie which earns your viewership.




FINAL SCORE: 7 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on November 21, 2014.

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