The Score: "[Savages] Does All We Expect Of A Little Ultraviolence, Shoot-Outs, Squished Eyeballs, Bare Butts In The Act Of Humping"

Friday, Jul 6, 2012 12:05PM

Written by J. Bachelor

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  • Savages
  • Aaron Johnson,Taylor Kitsch
  • July 6, 2012
Newsday 1.5/4
The Globe And Mail 2/4
Detroit News 8/10
New York Post 3/4
Washington Post 2.5/4

Summer moviegoers looking for a little streetwar-esque violence take note: Savages the latest film by celebrated director Oliver Stone blasts its way into theaters today, promising a couple hours intense action and even a bit of twisted romance.

The slam, bang summer flick finds Stone orchestrating a tale of drugs, love, revenge and of course, gunplay.

The snap, crackle and pulp of Stone's rock-and-roll inclinations fuels "Savages," his big bad boy of an adaptation of Don Winslow's novel. A candy-colored black valentine to titillation, garish brutality and groovy post-fin-de-siecle excess, this ode to cinema's most exploitative pleasures finds Stone chronicling America's dark side at its most sun-kissed. Drenched in light and sprawling across the screen in an anamorphic splash of wide-screen extravagance, "Savages" is a B-movie striving for an A-plus, a decadently energetic summer escape with bloody action, bold visuals and bodacious attitude to burn.(Washington Post)

The film is centered around Ophelia, played by Blake Lively, a well-meaning but troubled young woman who finds herself in a world of trouble after getting caught up in some drug action just south of the border.

She plays O (short for Ophelia), a young woman from a prosperous but dysfunctional family who shares a bizarre relationship with two men. Chon (Taylor Kitsch) is a curt mouthed, scarred fellow who has survived multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Through copulating, she hopes to drain all the pain from his soul (if there is any left) or help him find it. He's the love of her life, and so is Ben (Aaron Johnson, Kick-Ass). Having double majored in botany and business, Ben has taken cannabis seeds that Chon has smuggled from Afghanistan and engineered them to produce a strain that's 10 times stronger than average weed.Knowing how to make and keep money, he uses the proceeds to fund charity work. Chon, with the help of some former Navy SEALs, runs security, ruthlessly. In O's words, Ben is a Buddhist; Chon is a "bad-ist."(Arkansas Online)

The film employs a large cast of characters, including relative newcomers Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch as well as Hollywood mainstays Selma Hayeck, John Travolta and Oscar winner Benicio del Toro.

Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch (on dinger No. 3 this year, following "John Carter" and "Battleship") play Ben and Chon, boutique growers living in a Southern California bungalow with O (Blake Lively), who's as emptily erotic as her name. Everyone is let off any moral hooks: Ben (Aaron Johnson) is a budding George Soros who improves African villages, while muscleman Chon only kneecaps dirtbags who deserve it. But when the Baja cartel swoops in (John Travolta plays a corrupt DEA agent in the middle), do-gooder Ben finds himself forced to do bad.(Newsday)

Expect lots of bullets, blood and drugs with this release, as the cops, bad guys and sometimes good guys wage an all out war to serve their own, complicated interests.

The film does all that we expect of a little ultraviolence: shoot-outs, squished eyeballs, bare butts in the act of humping. Thank goodness for John Travolta's small, snappish role as a complicated DEA agent. In his best scene, he mixes it up with del Toro, swaps threats and exhortations, pleads a little, yells a little, mourns his dying wife and ultimately concludes, "You can't trust anyone any more!"(SF Gate)

While not among Stone's most popular works, critics agree the dark, ultra-violent feel of Savagaes is enough to keep the popcorn crowd entertained, while fans of the iconic director's stronger releases may walk away wanting a bit more.

A lifetime ago, Stone wrote "Scarface," whose extravagance bordered on camp, but, despite its excesses, "Savages" is never unintentionally funny, just gritty and mean. The run time is more than two hours, yet it's also tight: no drag, no waste, no message.(New York Post)
The film is certainly slick enough. Kitsch is appropriately steely, Johnson is conflicted, the cartel-types are dead-eyed monsters. And there's no denying the reality of such drug trade violence. But "Savages" makes you wonder where Stone, that most pointed of directors, is going. And then it never gets there, backing off at the last minute. As such, it is literally a brutal disappointment.(Detroit News)

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