Movie Review: Savages (2012)

Posted: January 15, 2013 in Drama

savages

Chon (Taylor Kitch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson) are small time pot growers and distributors from Laguna Beach California.  Chon got the seeds from Afghanistan where he served in the military, and the manufactured it to 33% purity.  Ophelia (Blake Lively is the girlfriend they share.  A big time drug cartel, headed by a woman named Elena (Salma Hayek) wants to take over the small time operation, but she needs Chon and Ben’s expertise.  At first Elena asks for a 20% cut, but Ben and Chon would keep control of the operation.  Ben, Chon, and O say no, and plan to disappear, but before that can happen, Ophelia is kidnapped by Elena’s henchman, Lado (Benecio Del Toro) and a price is put on Ophelia’s head of 15 million dollars.  Ben and Chon raise some of the money, steal another 3 million, while killing 7 of the drug cartel’s men, and find the name and location of Elena’s daughter, Magda (Sandra Echevarria) through a corrupt cop named Dennis (John Travolta) Magda lives in California, so naturally Chon and Ben kidnap Magda, and demand a trade for Ophelia.  What does Elena do?

I did not like this movie.  It is not a cautionary tale, although it could have been, it is not a morality play, because there are no good guys.  There are only bad guys and worse guys. This movie trades too much in negative stereotypes, Mexicans are vicious drug-dealing killers, it doesn’t matter if the movie features Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek, a stereotype is a stereotype, and this is a bad one.  Stereotype number two, women are weak and willing to be used by men.  This is personified by both Ophelia and Elena.  What woman allows herself to be shared by two men?  What woman has control of one of the most powerful drug cartels in Mexico, and yet goes to pieces when her daughter is kidnapped?  How did Elena get so powerful in the first place, if she is so weak in the knees?  Stereotype number  three, member of the military are only interested in exporting drugs from the country that they’re stationed in, and killing people.  I find it ironic to say the least that Oliver Stone would perpetuate this stereotype because Stone served in the military in 1967-68, during Vietnam.  Stone co-wrote this masterpiece, with two other people.

The problems only begin with the bad screenplay, the characters are stock characters if I’ve ever seen them.  The badass, back from active duty, the mellow Buddhist, who only wants to make the world better, one bong hit at a time, the burnout girlfriend, who enjoys the product a bit too much, the corrupt cop, the evil henchman, the drug kingpin. They’re all here, and they’ve all been done better.  If this was a Tarantino film, you can bet Salma Hayek and Blake Lively would have kicked some ass.  Salma Hayek at least tried to put some life into her character, but was constrained by an awful script.  Shame on Benicio Del Toro for taking this role.  John Travolta is a hack of an actor, and proves it once again by showcasing his overacting skills.  Blake Lively, who was so good in The Town was given nothing to do, but be a victim.  Oh yes, there are bad filmmaking techniques on display too, narration to explain the plot, if someone’s too dumb to figure it out.  If that isn’t bad enough, there’s a false ending, where Stone literally rewinds the original ending, and says here’s the real ending.  And as usual the false ending is better than the manufactured ending, but I’m sure it didn’t test well.  Shame on Oviver Stone for resorting to such amateurish techniques. Oliver Stone used to at least try to make good movies.  This isn’t even a good try.

Savages.  A savage review for an awful movie.

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