Savages isn’t a complete waste of time but it was a waste of potential. The main characters aren’t very well developed though it’s not helped that the actors don’t deliver better performances and the use of voice over from Blakely was annoying. There are a couple glimmers of light: the film looks great thanks to director of photographer Dan Mindel and Benicio Del Toro is fantastic in a small but integral role.
Genre(s): Drama, Suspense
Universal | R/Unrated – 131 min. / 142 min. – $34.98 | November 13, 2012
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Writer(s): Don Winslow (novel); Shane Salerno & Don Winslow & Oliver Stone (screenplay)
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Emile Hirsch
Theatrical Release Date: July 6, 2012
Features: 2 Commentaries, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, BD-Live, DVD Copy, UltraViolet Digital Copy, Standard Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 43.9 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
Admittedly, Oliver Stone has never been a favorite filmmaker of mine. No doubt he’s talented and has made some good movies in the past, but none of them have struck me to the core compared with others considered in the same league. However, even I can see that his recent slot of films, including Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, W., World Trade Center and Alexander were, at best, mediocre films. Stone’s latest film, entitled Savages doesn’t exactly stall his downward spiral though he also hasn’t his rock bottom as, say, Francis Ford Coppola.
The story follows O (BLAKE LIVELY), named after Othello, and best friends/f**k buddies/marijuana growers/users Cheech and Chong…err…Ben (AARON JOHNSON) and Chon (TAYLOR KITSCH), both who are able to satisfy O, and give her one (*rimshot*), in their own special way. See, Ben is the sensitive one, working the business side of their endeavors while Chon, a former Iraq/Afghan veteran who uses his position to smuggle poppy seeds to the U.S., is the muscle and enforcer.
Both of the men, but especially Ben, has also made some of the strongest, more potent weed, in North America, which grabs the attention of the Baja cartel headed by Elena (SALMA HAYEK) who make their presence known sending a video file of several beheadings. They want to make a deal for their supply, and thus region, or else face brutal consequences. While Ben wants to give the business to the cartel and move into solar manufacturing, Chon instead argues that selling would show weakness and being a Navy Seal, he’s all for strength…
They make an initial meet with a representative of Elena’s and given 24 hours to make a final decision as the two are valuable to the cartel for their experience making primo weed. The Ben, Chon and O decide to liquidate whatever they can and make a run for it, and utilize their final hours smoking it up. The next day, O decides to do some shopping but is being watched by Elena’s people, including strongman Lado (BENICIO DEL TORO), and sensing they’re going to run, kidnap O and use her to get the guys.
Ben and Chon utilize their relationship with a corrupt DEA agent (JOHN TRAVOLTA) to find out more information about who they are dealing with and how to even the playing field after making a delivery for Elena and ultimately a deal for O that includes service to the cartel for 3 years, and in one year, O would be released. However, Chon knows better and that they need to rescue her before it’s too late. Their plan first involves paying for her, the cost being $15 million but they’re a few million short and decide to rob from that very cartel via an ambush with the help of Chon’s fellow former soldiers.
Alright, first things first, Savages I felt was a competently made film in terms of style but is short on substance, aside from the pro-legalization standpoint banged over the audience’s head with some pointed bits of dialogue, and has characters I couldn’t care less about especially our three “heroes” whose relationship makes no logical sense and seems to be more of an idealist/utopia way of thinking from either Stone (co-writer) or Don Winslow who’s novel the movie is based upon (and he also gets co-writer credit). The other downfall is the use of voiceover which immediately sends up red flags as more often than not, it’s used as a lazy crutch to tell the story rather than developing the characters.
In regards to the casting, it’s a mixed bag. Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson and, especially, Blake Lively are not very good and fairly one-dimensional with their characters. Lively in particular wasn’t impressive both in her voice over delivery which was grating to her overall character which is a big deal since we need to relate to her since she’s at the center of the plot. Kitsch meanwhile continues to be cast in leading roles and doesn’t have much to show for it from John Carter to Battleship and now Savages. Similar to Sam Worthington (who I find to be a better actor by comparison), they’re trying their damndest to make Kitsch into a star, but it’s not working out so far. Johnson, well, he plays that pacifist part quite well and it’s annoying as heck to see his naivety yet at the end, despite seeing much bloodshed, doesn’t change a whole lot.
The supporting cast comes off slightly better with maybe the exception of John Travolta who has a few fine scenes and one horrid scene where his facial expressions are everywhere and his acting some of the worst I’ve seen him do since Old Dogs. However, Salma Hayek is, albeit underutilized, is alright and Benicio Del Toro, as he done throughout his career steals the show to the point I wish he was the main character; a bad hombre for sure but entertaining and far better than any of the main characters…
Savages isn’t a complete waste of time but it was a waste of potential. For one thing, the main characters aren’t very well developed though it’s not helped that the actors don’t deliver better performances and the use of voice over from Blakely was annoying. There are a couple glimmers of light, though: the film looks great thanks to director of photographer Dan Mindel (Mission Impossible 3, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies) and Benicio Del Toro is fantastic in a small but integral role which I wish was whole lot larger.
Thus far, Oliver Stone’s latest works haven’t exactly been stellar and while Savages wasn’t great, it did have some things going for it and was better than Stone’s other directorial outings. If you have nothing better to watch and want to see something visually interesting, and don’t mind voice-overs, then it’s worth a shot.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5
The Blu-ray comes with a semi-glossy slipcover. Inside is a code for either a Digital Copy or UltraViolet Download and a standard def DVD Copy.
Unrated Version – I haven’t watched this version but it runs about 11-minutes longer.
1) Director Oliver offers up an insightful commentary talking about where the subject came from, working on the script and shooting on various locations. As far as solo tracks go, I found Stone engaging and providing some tidbits about the film and doesn’t merely telestrate as some others tend to do.
2) Producers Eric Kopeloff & Moritz Borman, Co-Screenwriter/Novelist Don Winslow, Executive Producer/Co-Screenwriter Shane Salerno and Production Designer Tomas Voth head up the second track who fill in the blanks that might not have been covered by Oliver Stone on the first track, focusing more on the novel and adaptation but also delving some into on-location matters.
Deleted Scenes (16:01; HD) – There are nine scenes removed that I think wouldn’t really add much to the final film and instead extended it more. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Stone Cold Savages (33:53; HD) is a ‘making-of’ featurette split into 5 chapters where Director Oliver Stone, cast members (Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta, Salma Hayek) and others discuss the novel it’s based on and turning it into a feature film. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
BD-Live ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Previews – Werewolf: The Beast Among Us, Death Race 3: Inferno, End of Watch, Dead in Tombstone
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Universal Studios releases Savages on Blu-ray with a 1080p high-definition transfer and presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. The picture has fine detail levels but also a high amount of grain and no doubt per how Oliver Stone intended oversaturation in many scenes, hence the blown out colors.
AUDIO – 4.25/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track sounds good with decent dialogue levels in the quieter moments and fine distribution during the action scenes which contain explosions and rapid gunfire. All in all, this lossless track might not knock your socks off, or rattle the windows in the room, but nevertheless it’s a dynamic track.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, Savages isn’t a complete waste of time but it was a waste of potential. The main characters aren’t very well developed though it’s not helped that the actors don’t deliver better performances and the use of voice over from Blakely was annoying. There are a couple glimmers of light: the film looks great thanks to director of photographer Dan Mindel and Benicio Del Toro is fantastic in a small but integral role which I wish was whole lot larger.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.