"Despite bearing an intriguing premise, Savages suffers in having a terribly lacklustre and predictable script..."
There are few directors in world cinema that come with the pedigree and reputation of Oliver Stone, the man behind films such as Wall Street, Platoon and JFK. However his track record of late hasn't been so triumphant, and any worrying signals that the ageing film maker is beyond his best years have been reaffirmed in his latest feature Savages.
We follow the trials and tribulations of flourishing marijuana growers and best friends Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), who come into a spot of bother when they refuse the opportunity to go into business with a Mexican drugs cartel, headed by the ruthless Elena (Salma Hayek). Hoping to give up the industry altogether, the pair are reluctantly dragged into a fateful and uncompromising war with the cartel as the pair's joint girlfriend O (Blake Lively) is taken hostage.
With the help of a dirty DEA informant Dennis (John Travolta), Ben and Chon must do whatever necessary to secure the safety of O, as suddenly their pragmatic and peaceful approach to the business is disregarded, as they set out to take down those responsible for the kidnapping of their girlfriend, including the merciless and dangerously instinctive Lado (Benicio Del Toro).
Despite bearing an intriguing premise, Savages suffers in having a terribly lacklustre and predictable script, full to the brim of puns, platitudes, clichés and supposedly smart one-liners. I can't decide what's worse - referring to an ex-soldier’s orgasm as a "wargasm", or the line "they don't call it a high-jacking for nothing" in regards to a robbery of marijuana. There is far too much cringing induced by this film, with a horribly pretentious use of black and white imagery and profound narration.
However despite the lacklustre screenplay, fortunately the talented cast ensure this film is not a complete write-off, with stand-out performances from Del Toro, Travolta and Hayek, particularly from the former who completely steals the show. As Stone creates a film intending on catering to a younger, new audience of potential fans, it comes as little surprise that the only saving grace to come out of it are the three more experienced, older members of the cast, as opposed to the lead trio of Taylor-Johnson, Kitsch and Lively who are all highly forgettable in their roles, despite evidently spearheading Stone's attempt at connecting with a younger audience.
The biggest issue with Savages, however, is the ending. I shan’t divulge too much information, but let's just say it's one big fat cop out. I left the film feeling almost as though I was the disgruntled runner up on a game show, having just been presented with the "this is what you could have won..." line. It completely devalues the entire film, leaving a rather sour taste in the mouth. The needless finale is also another example of redundant screen time, in a film that is simply too long. If your film is to eclipse two hours you have to justify it. Being that long should not be something that is aimed for, but instead an involuntary necessity. Not in this case - there is at least 45 minutes’ worth of material that could quite easily have been cut out.
Savages is simply not enjoyable enough, almost refusing to thrive within its own enticing narrative and all-star ensemble cast. It is engaging in parts, but on the whole it's simply too forgettable, and sadly the aspects to the film that do stick with you are the various annoyances you had actually rather hoped you would forget.