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Savages Movie Review & Trailer

Review Date: July 6, 2012 at 3:00 PM ET

In Theaters July 6, 2012

Review by Angel Navedo for LatinRapper.com

 

Starring: John Travolta, Blake Lively, Trevor Donovan, Demian Bichir, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, Mia Maestro

 

Savages movie review

The sooner you immerse yourself in Savages’ unlikely premise, a utopian love triangle interrupted by a brutal drug cartel, the sooner you can allow yourself to enjoy two hours inside the violent mind of Oliver Stone.


Savages is simplified Blow if Johnny Depp’s “Boston” George Jung had a temper, an arsenal, and soldiers; it’s Natural Born Killers with less clinical insanity and more abnormal passion. Most importantly, it’s a unique crime thriller that captures the very real emotions of rage and love, and slides them into a universe with two enterprising weed dealers operating in Laguna Beach, Calif. as polar opposites fighting to rescue the trophy girlfriend they willingly share.

Yes, Blake Lively is almost as boring in the movie as she is in the film’s trailers. It takes a while, but once Ophelia (Lively) is kidnapped, you’re absolutely ready for the savages to do some savage things. Fortunately, Benicio del Toro alleviates Lively’s insipid narration with his spirited interpretation of a charismatic and ruthless enforcer. He’s having a blast exaggerating Lado, because in a criminal-driven story, the audience needs to identify the worst of the bunch.

Without a doubt, del Toro completely steals Savages from an ensemble cast featuring Salma Hayek, John Travolta, Emile Hirsch (Alpha Dog), and rising stars Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass) and Taylor Kitsch (Battleship, John Carter).

Kitsch’s intense performance as Chon is redemption for the young actor after leading two of 2012’s monumental flops. Fans of NBC’s critically acclaimed (but ratings deprived) “Friday Night Lights” series will remember Kitsch’s Tim Riggins, and will be delighted to see the familiar strength and silence receive a boost with Chon’s paranoid aggression. He’s a wrecking ball in each scene, threatening to erupt once all words are exhausted.

It takes nearly 70 minutes for Savages to initiate the battle we knew was coming. It’s a relief, especially if you fear all the action was wasted in previews for the film. The film is well paced, hitting clever checkpoints that build to Ben (Johnson) and Chon’s attack on Elena (Hayek). All the scenes in between are loaded with torture, a little gore, and relentless savagery.

But don’t expect more complexity to the characters after they’re all introduced. That’s not a bad thing, but it does border awkward when considering Elena’s contradictory behavior as the cartel queenpin. She receives foot rubs and applies facial masks while controlling an inherited drug business while wirelessly orchestrating kidnappings while longing to be a doting mother to an estranged daughter. She’s a rich character, with diverse wants and needs, who could have been the protagonist. But Elena is simplified, reduced to contrasting Hayek’s exquisite beauty against Elena’s sadistic ferocity.

This is a personal peeve, but it’s never logical to me when Latino characters speak English to one another with thick Spanish accents. Why aren’t they speaking Spanish when they’re clearly more comfortable with their native tongues? Most recently, Colombiana did the same and it was a nuisance then.

Yet, the most polarizing aspect of this film is its conclusion. Stone and his writing cohorts, Shane Salerno and Don Winslow (the author whose book this film is based upon), have the audacity to leave Savages with two endings. The audience is asked to decide upon which conclusion they prefer, but it feels like a cop out. Two endings is no ending, and the execution derails the momentum of all the decisions that led the characters to the end.

Despite its straightforward approach, Savages is an exceptional offering from an expert filmmaker, blending effortless humor, well-executed irony, and unapologetic action sequences. 

 

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