Friday, July 6, 2012
Movie review: Savages
Drug dealer on drug dealer crime.
For someone who’s most well-known for being part of the highly-regarded but lightly-watched Friday Night Lights TV series. Taylor Kitsch is one of the most inescapable actors of 2012. He’s already headlined two big movies – John Carter and Battleship – and he’s now back with a third high-profile film, Savages, directed by that firebrand of a director, Oliver Stone.
Savages tells the story of two mid-level marijuana dealers, Chon (Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson), who strike it big with a strain of weed Chon brought back with him from Afghanistan. Their success runs afoul of a Mexican drug cartel run by Elena (Salma Hayek), who sends her underlings to try and convince the duo to part ways with their business. This sets into motion a series of events that grows to involve a DEA agent (John Travolta), O (Blake Lively), who’s in a relationship with both Chon AND Ben, a brooding Lado (Benicio Del Toro), one of Elena’s hired hands, and more guns than most of us would care to see in our entire lifetime.
First things first, the story is near incomprehensible. From the minute Elena’s emissaries meet with Chon and Ben, who’s working for who and whose allegiances are split is up in the air. Things don’t become any clearer as the film goes along, no thanks to some strange editing decisions that leave some seemingly important plot threads dangling. So if you’re looking for a film that’s easily understandable from beginning to end, search elsewhere.
What does work for Savages is the acting. Although the dialogue leaves a little to be desired, most of the actors sell their roles extremely well. Kitsch, for the first time this year, is great as a war veteran who puts his military expertise to good use. Johnson, best known for his lead role in Kick-Ass, proves himself quite the chameleon, adopting a calm and cool persona right up until things hit the fan. Lively hasn’t been known for her hard-hitting characters, but she more than holds her own as the spoiled O.
But Del Toro is unquestionably the scene-stealer of the film. Since his breakout role as the mumble-mouthed Fenster in 1995’s The Usual Suspects, Del Toro has been known to adopt a variety of unique accents/vocal cadences in his work. His choices for Lado surprise at almost every turn, making the character into one to be feared, laughed at, and – most of all – appreciated.
Savages is never as brutal or violent as its title or Stone’s reputation would lead you to believe. It does have a few scenes that push the limits, but Stone’s ability to shock hasn’t been present since 1994’s Natural Born Killers. However, thanks to Del Toro, Kitsch, and a slew of other good performances, Savages winds up being the best film he’s done in the 21st century.