There are many reviews for Savages available online from critics far more eloquent and accomplished than I. So I wanted to forgo the review and take this opportunity to share the lessons I learned from this wild beast of a film.
But first I can’t resist offering a brief comment regarding my opinion of the movie in the form of a recipe. Savages is three and a half quarts of spectacularly brutal drug trade violence and suspense. Add in two tablespoons of “war on drugs” satire. Take a fresh pinch of Benicio Del Toro psychopath and mix it in with a dab of hilariously corrupt John Travolta. Grind up the lives of 3 people deeply in love before tossing in. Bake the entire concoction for 131 minutes in the Laguna Beach sun. The final dish should entrance, excite, and terrify you. It will be beautiful and haunting. Dare I say it willI be the best dish you’ve sampled this summer. Don’t forget to serve to a chilling Salma Hayek drug kingpin. Or maybe it was don’t forget to serve chilled? Regardless one bite will delight. The sensation is not unlike the tears of joy too many jalapeños bring.
1. Not all love triangles are love triangles…
The three main characters in Savages are Chon (Taylor Kitsch), Ben (Aaron Johnson), and O (Blake Lively). Chon and Ben are best friends. The two share O as a girlfriend. And I kid you not the entire movie does nothing to change the previous two sentences. I have never in my movie career witnessed a love triangle that was not a love triangle. These people are deeply in love and care immensely for one another. The previews had me skeptical but the movie upgraded me to confounded. All three characters are immensely likable and true to themselves. I was certain that the dynamic would frustrate my mind but it was not the case whatsoever. The dynamic was unusual for society of course but I am a big believer in unusual always being a good thing. The movie’s conflicts did not lie within the bond of these three and for that I was tremendously grateful.
2. Southern California is the most beautiful place on earth
I don’t know whether to thank director Oliver Stone for making me aware of this or resent him since the place is so damn expensive. Mr. Stone presents surreal, sunny shots of ocean, blue skies, and rolling hills.The scenery in this film is jaw dropping every time it chooses to be. A. O. Scott of The New York Times writes that Oliver Stone “seems intoxicated by beauty almost to the point of distraction.” I think distraction is a poor choice of word; you will get lost in this movie.
3. Just reading about the Mexican drug cartels does not do the trick
If you did not see the previews the main characters Chon and Ben are two halves of a lucrative pot growing business. This film has clear motives regarding America’s war on drugs. My two major takeaways are the pervasiveness of marijuana in our society and the brutality of the Mexican drug cartels that profit off of major takeaway number one. It seems obvious that weed thrives in America; most rappers glorify it and most young people have tried or use it. There are even schools in America that teach you how to grow it. I don’t want to focus here on whether it should be legal or not. But it’s hard for many people to see how marijuana is put in the same war as other drugs. I want to focus on how America’s war on drugs fuels violence. The United States marijuana demand fuels rampant smuggling by Mexican drug cartels across the border. This movie hits hard with the barbarity and untold atrocities these cartels create. Movies sometimes have the capacity to hit harder than text. One might argue that it’s a movie, it’s dramatized for effect, don’t believe everything you see. But it doesn’t seem that farfetched when every week the news tells us the Mexican military has found a massive grave of men, women, and children murdered by a mexican drug cartel. Or shows us a picture of bodies hanging from a bridge. Savages reminds us that these cartels have heavy connections in the States. Everything seems very,very wrong. That is one of the messages Oliver Stone suggests through Savages. Another message is the parallels the drug trade shares with big business regarding negotiations and financing. Maybe I am misinformed and misguided but it seems to me that these messages are worth sharing.
4. If you are afraid of heights, do not ride the roller coaster
Savages is exactly what its name indicates, savage. The film is fearless during its darker and morbid happenings. Beware of sick minds and unsettling torture. I took my girlfriend to see the film on a sort of date night. My girlfriend likes action movies and happy things like most people. Needless to say Savages was far from her favorite movie and tough for her to enjoy. Savages is definitely of a gnarly breed. The type that gives me glee. Lesson: If you are afraid of heights, do not ride the roller coaster.
5. The art of creating truly fascinating characters still thrives
Ok this lesson learned is a bit of a cop out to lavish praise on the actors/actresses. But that does not make it any less true. The key to the characters in Savages are their diversity. It is a joy to watch the polarized personalities, ideals, and goals jockey for what they desire in life. Every character stereotype is turned on its axis for some all killer no filler fun. Taylor Kitsch as Chon is a rugged, cynical combat veteran. Aaron Johnson as Ben is brilliant, sensitive, and idealistic Berkeley biology graduate. Blake Lively as O is beautiful, vague and hypnotizing as the California bombshell. It is fascinating to watch these hollywood newcomers perform their craft with the likes of veterans like John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, and Salma Hayek. The veterans absolutely kill their roles. Benicio Del Toro’s henchman is one of legend.
If you have not seen Savages yet I highly recommend it. It is my favorite film so far this year. I promise you the adventure will be thrilling, touching, and downright savage.