Saturday, July 14, 2012

Movie Review: SAVAGES, A Review by Frank Venuto

Title: Savages
Director: Oliver Stone
Actor(s): Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta, Salma Hayek
Rated: R
Genre: Drama, Suspense, Mystery
Runtime: 2 hr., 9 min.
Release Date: 6 July 2012 (Theatrical)
Frank's Rating:

Synopsis: Laguna Beach entrepreneurs Ben (Johnson), a peaceful and charitable Buddhist, and his closest friend Chon (Kitsch), a former Navy SEAL and ex-mercenary, run a lucrative, homegrown industry-raising some of the best marijuana ever developed. They also share a one-of-a-kind love with the extraordinary beauty Ophelia (Lively). Life is idyllic in their Southern California town...until the Mexican Baja Cartel decides to move in and demands that the trio partners with them. When the merciless head of the BC, Elena (Hayek), and her brutal enforcer, Lado (Del Toro), underestimate the unbreakable bond among these three friends, Ben and Chon-with the reluctant, slippery assistance of a dirty DEA agent (Travolta)-wage a seemingly unwinnable war against the cartel.

Frank's Review: Let me start by saying I have always been a fan of Oliver Stone's movies. From his conspiracy theory laden JFK to his ultraviolent take on crime and journalism in Natural Born Killers and of course who didn't love Wall Street.  Yes, I can even admit that I enjoyed parts of the oft panned Alexander. SAVAGES is no different. Starring Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, Benicio Del Toro, and John Travolta, the story revolves around the definition of savages: members of society that are regarded as primitive and uncivilized. That is what all the characters in this movie are in some way, shape, or form. I am jumping ahead a bit.
Stone uses a camera like another character in the movie. His uses of vivid colors interspersed with gray shots of the ocean splashing on the rocks are beautiful. He never ceases to amaze me with the way he sees the world in colors. Different ways of handling the filming either via hand held or in some instances using a security camera to tell the story keeps the audience interested and involved.

As far as his character development goes, I do feel Stone drops the ball here a bit. All of the characters fit into the story a little too neatly. But the actors pull off these characters well. Kitsch (Chon) and Johnson ( Ben) play the lead roles of the best pot dealers in the US. Kitsch is Hollywood's newest "it" guy and I feel this role was perfect for him. I at times felt like I was watching him in Friday Night Lights again. The journey of Johnson's character from the peaceful botanist to the do-anything-for-love-savage was my favorite storyline in the movie. The rest of the cast was good. However, Del Toro was GREAT. His turn as the strong-arm for the cartel was amazing. He is so smarmy and gritty you can almost smell him through the screen.

Where Stone falls short is this: I feel he sold the movie as an action packed flick. In reality, it is a drama and commentary on the USA's war on drugs mixed with shots of brutality. Stone's strengths in his movies usually lie within the conspiracies, but I feel he stretched it in this one. If he would have given us a straight popcorn movie I probably would have loved this film. Instead, because Oliver tried to shovel the atrocities of this story at us and then cop out in the end, he didn't allow the audience to see all of the people as Savages.

 All in all Stone gave us a good summer movie. The visuals were at times stunning and the acting was good. Out of 5 stars I would give SAVAGES a 3. Thanks for reading my review.

Like Frank's review? Want to know more about him or have a question for him? Check out his Guest Blogger Introduction HERE!


  1. Wow Frank! Thank you for sharing a very informative and honest review. I haven't seen this one yet but the chosen actors are definitely interesting. I mean, I would love to see Blake Lively, John Travolta and Salma Hayek together in a movie. So that's already a plus for me.

    The story, I feel, is something that my hubby and I would enjoy watching. So I will check this one out.

    Thanks again.

    - Ara of My Book and My Coffee

  2. Good review Mia. Lively's narrative takes this film down a lot but the rest of the performances make this film a lot better than you would expect from another Stone "drug movie". Could have been a whole lot better but not terrible, and that's good considering what Stone has put out in the past decade.