Savages, directed by Oliver Stone, is the sort of film that is just about watchable if you don’t take it too seriously. However, for those looking for something a little more substantial, it is more than likely to fall short of the mark.
The film centres around two guys, Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), who grow some of the best Marijuana in the world. When they realised that Afghanistan had high quality seeds, Chon went to war just to bring some back – that’s dedication for you. They now spend their days farming, and smoking, in California, whilst happily sharing the same girl (Blake Lively), with whom they are both ‘romantically involved’. Sounds like an idyllic life, right?
Somewhat surprisingly, it’s all actually going rather well until Mexican drug lords get a whiff of what they’re selling and decide that they want to team up. When Ben and Chon turn them down, their shared girlfriend is kidnapped and they are forced to find out how far they are prepared to go for their mutual love.
The film is Kitsch’s third attempt at making a high-profile blockbuster. Back in March he played the lead in John Carter, and received high praise from die-hard fans of the Barsoom novels, although most audiences were left unimpressed. He then pouted his way through Battleship alongside Liam Neeson and Rihanna, only to be massively let-down by the storyline (what exactly did humans expect when they asked aliens to come visit?). This time, however, he has taken on the role of a bad boy, complete with a couple of scars and a tough attitude. Unfortunately for Mr. Kitsch, his performance isn’t entirely convincing and we are left feeling like those cheesy lines could have perhaps been said a lot better by someone a little bit tougher.
Taylor-Johnson, who not so long ago played Kick-Ass himself, has certainly grown up a lot since his superhero days. Cast as a plant-loving friend of the environment, complete with facial hair and ponytail, his character is a strange one in that he hates the idea of violence, but seems to go against this judgement in certain situations. This lack of consistency is one of the flaws from which Savages suffers throughout.
It is hard to keep up with the storyline at times – not because it is particularly intellectual, but simply because the numerous twists and turns don’t appear to take you anywhere and often bear little significance as they occur, only for you to realise later that it was meant to be shocking. You’d certainly be forgiven for wondering if those involved in making this film were perhaps partaking in a similar high-quality recreational substance to that which is seen on screen.
That said, Lively gets the portrayal of a messed-up fantasy life just right, looking and sounding like she is living in a dream world, complete with flowers in her hair and shopping bags on her arm. Slurring her way through her role as the film’s narrator, she keeps audience guessing – and when she asks her captives for a toothbrush, we begin to understand that she is no ordinary girl.
The villains, played by Benicio del Toro and Salma Hayek, are arguably the best thing about this movie, albeit still in a very cheesy way. Hayek plays the powerful Elena, proving she’s as cutthroat as the men – except when her maternal instincts get in the way. The only instinct exhibited by Del Toro’s character, on the other hand, is how best to make people squirm. Oh and a talent for eating, a lot – he seems to have the munchies throughout most of the film.
John Travolta also stars in Savages, taking on the role of a dirty cop with his fingers in a lot of pies, literally – he’s always eating too. Even so, he gives a good performance that is just as cheesy as that of Del Toro and Hayek, and thus perfectly in keeping with the overall tone of the film – plus these three veterans of the silver screen certainly look like they had a great deal of fun during shooting.
The problem with Savages is that many of the scenes simply fail to have much of an impact – they just sort of happen. Moments of violence which should be shocking are glossed over as the film cuts back to serene shots of the radiant Californian sun – everything is fine again, despite the fact that there was a severed head on the floor just seconds ago. The lacklustre nature of this film, as a whole, means that Savages is likely to leave audiences feeling far less shell-shocked than it should.
The film as a while does not move very fast and it’s hard to feel much of an emotional connection to the characters, or to really engage with the plot. But if all you’re looking for is cheesy drug-lord stereotypes and absurdly loud shooting scenes, then you’re in luck – there is certainly plenty of both.
Savages is in UK cinemas NOW.