In today’s reboot world of Hollywood. It’s always good to see a legendary filmmaker continue to crank out originality and controversy. Oliver Stone.
Lately, Stone has been tapping into his soft side with 2004’s World Trade Center, 2009’s W: the unauthorized George W. Bush story and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Now he’s taking on the New York Times best seller, Don Winslow’s Savages. Winslow also co-writes with Stone on the screenplay. When Stone writes, it’s full of wit, facts, and originality. Savages is no different. In fact, it’s one of the best of the year.
Welcome to Laguna Beach. Where the women are beautiful, the sun is always shining, and the waves always crashing against the hot sandy beaches and…where you can find the best marijuana in America. That’s right. Aaron Johnson plays Ben, a buddhist/idealist that seems like the brains of the operation wheeling and dealing business deals left and right. Taylor Kitsch plays Chon, an ex-Navy SEAL/entrepreneur who takes care of the brawny side. You double cross this business, you’re going to pay in bruises and eventually deliver the green. They have it all. A house right off the beach, BMW’s, convertibles, million dollar bank accounts and a relationship with a rich blonde named Ophelia but is known only as “O” to the guys. It’s a love triangle that only lives in a man’s dreams and for good reason too. Stone shows the physical and emotional sides of love in a rather candid and realistic fashion.
Chon and Ben have grown tired and are ready to retire but the Mexican Baja Drug Cartel has different ideas as they want the two entrepreneurs to continue making the herb for another three years. Ben “gracefully” says no and Chon says two words that become engraved in the leader of the drug cartel, Elena played by a scenery chewing Salma Hayek. Hayek takes Elena, brings depth and verbal brutality brought with grace. You’ll have to see it to believe it. Elena knows that their most important asset must be O. Gives the order to capture her to her right hand man, Lado played with a balance of suave sickness and brutal ferocity physically by Benacio Del Toro. Every time Del Toro is on the screen, you’re hooked and don’t want to miss a second because of his unpredictability. Also, Chon and Ben have an unscruplous friend on the inside. Dennis, a dirty DEA agent that keeps the two businessmen off the radar. Played by a thinly haired scene-stealing John Travolta who gained 25 lbs for the role. Finally, I want to give props to Kitsch for his best performance since Friday Night Lights. Bringing fierceness, aggression and a surprising sentimentality towards O and Johnson, shocking the audience in the last quarter of the film with his 180 degree flip on his character.
Stone taps back into his down and dirty side that is reminiscent of Natural Born Killers. The screenplay is witty, funny, and shocks you with a twist that satirizes today’s Hollywood and Winslow’s ending stays in as well. Dynamic action sequences, sizzling sex scenes and uniformly excellent performances across the board make this one of the best of 2012.
Savages gets an A!
I’m Jake Turner, reminding you to spend your money wisely at the cinema.