Latest Movie News Headlines

Review: Savages

Jul. 5, 2012by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson) are a study in contrasts. Chon, a former Navy SEAL is a hard man- cold as steel, and quick to violence. Ben on the other hand is gentle, kind, and a thinker- not a doer. Together, this unlikely duo have cornered the market on marijuana in Laguna Beach California, and share a gorgeous girlfriend, O (Blake Lively). But- Chon & Ben's business has caught the attention of the Mexican cartel, run by the cold-blooded Elena (Salma Hayek) and her chief enforcer Lado (Benicio Del Toro), who- to convince Ben & Chon to join the cartel, kidnap O. In order to get her back, Ben & Chon will need to become SAVAGES!

REVIEW: Don Winslow's novel, SAVAGES is my HUNGER GAMES. A year ago, I breezed through this thing in about a day, and since then I've been following the development of this movie slavishly. Everything about it seemed to suggest that this would be the film to nail Winslow (his earlier novel, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF BOBBY Z was butchered). Oliver Stone seemed a natural to direct this, having written the all-time king coke epic, SCARFACE, and the cast seemed to be shaping up nicely. But, as much as it pains me to say this- something really got lost in the translation...


But, while the film version of SAVAGES pales compared to the book, there's still enough here that's salvageable, and makes this a film worth catching. In fact, if you haven't read the book, as I'm sure the majority of folks haven't (it's a cult book- and wasn't a major seller), you'll probably quite like this as it seems like a nice return to form for Oliver Stone. Uniquely for a guy who's films increasingly tend to preach rather than entertain, the aim of SAVAGES seems only to be to entertain, and in that regard it's probably Stone's best all-around film since ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (although the recent WALL STREET sequel certainly had it's moments).

There are things about it that are perfect . For one, Benicio Del Toro nails the part of Lado, a vicious enforcer who has to balance his blood lust with his more pragmatic side. With a pompadour mullet, and a permanently bemused expression and tone of voice, Del Toro is magnetic. In fact, he's maybe too good, as whenever he's off-screen, you're waiting for him to come back. Ditto John Travolta, in a gem of a part as a crooked DEA agent on everyone's payroll. Travolta hasn't been this good in a long time, and the expanded nature of his part is one of the few deviations from the novel that I really liked. Salma Hayek also seems like a good fit for the Griselda Blanco- ish Elena, and it's certainly a departure for her, that she pretty much nails.


Of course, with a veteran cast this good, the younger stars are going to pale in comparison, but for the most part they hold their own. While he's had a tough year, Taylor Kitsch is pretty ideal as Chon, perfectly embodying the quiet cool that made him so memorable on the page. Physically, Stone's turned him into a behemoth, with his muscular, JOHN CARTER look seeming puny by comparison. Aaron Johnson, a great actor in his own right, does indeed pale a little as Ben, in that he seemed a bit too whiny, and spacey. In fact, Emile Hirsch, who nails a small role as their number cruncher Tires, seems like he would have been better in the part. Still, Johnson's not particularly bad, but he just doesn't measure up with the rest of the cast. Ditto Blake Lively as O, who seemed perfect for the part when her casting was announced, but for me- just seemed a little out of sorts, and too conservative to play the wild-child O. It doesn't help that she's settled with pages and pages of bad narration, which- to be fair, has been pulled verbatim out of the book, but worked a lot better on the page than on the screen.


Shortcomings aside, for about ninety percent of SAVAGES I was having a good time with it, and if you asked me before the climax what I thought of it, I'd say it was a pretty good film version of an amazing book. But, in the climax, Stone blows it big time. For those that have read the book, I have to tell you, Stone tries to have his cake and eat it too, and the effect is atrocious to the point that I just about couldn't stop myself from crying out what the fuck? Changing the ending isn't a huge deal. A book and a film that cost tens of millions are two wildly different things, and considering the hardcore violence (Stone doesn't shy away from the R-rating), SAVAGES was more savage than you'd think. But, the ending, in an effort to be clever just about ruins the film- and it's a shame, as Stone could have had a winner here if he had just chosen to go one way or the other- rather than compromise in a shockingly clumsy way.

So- it all comes down to whether or not I can recommend SAVAGES. For me, this is a lot like Danny Boyle's film version of Alex Garland's THE BEACH, in that there's enough good about it to make it an alright film, but there was the potential to be so much more if some bad decisions hadn't been made along the way. But, as our own The Arrow told me after the screening, it's not a sequel, it's not a remake, and it's a hard-R and in that regard it should be respected. It's a pretty good movie, but- I'm sorry to say that even if you haven't read the book, the ending will likely be a deal-breaking piss-off.

Extra Tidbit: Savages has the best first chapter I've ever read. If perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the book. Points to whoever in the talkbacks can transcribe the whole thing. Hint- it won't take more than 5 seconds.
Source: JoBlo.com

Related Articles

MORE FUN FROM AROUND THE WEB

Strikeback
Not registered? Sign-up!
Or

7:31PM on 09/30/2012

Deserves Another Viewing If Loved The Book & Disliked The Film

First of all let me say, Oliver Stone is my favorite filmmaker. When I first heard about SAVAGES I was very excited as I always am when I hear that Oliver has a new film coming out. I will admit though I did not really care for WORLD TRADE CENTER or W. That being said, I read Don Winslow's book SAVAGES last winter because I was hyped up for the movie and this was the only way to whet my appetite. The book was AWESOME and it made me even more excited about the film. When July 06 finally arrived
First of all let me say, Oliver Stone is my favorite filmmaker. When I first heard about SAVAGES I was very excited as I always am when I hear that Oliver has a new film coming out. I will admit though I did not really care for WORLD TRADE CENTER or W. That being said, I read Don Winslow's book SAVAGES last winter because I was hyped up for the movie and this was the only way to whet my appetite. The book was AWESOME and it made me even more excited about the film. When July 06 finally arrived I was there, bought my ticket and made the days second showing. I found myself thinking this is as bad as "W.". I wanted to cry. I waited all fucking year for this!
Then a month later I was able to see SAVAGES again and that time I really enjoyed it! I don't know why I didn't care for it so much the first time around. For those of you you disliked SAVAGES the first time, give it another go. It really is a pretty cool flick. Not Oliver Stone's best but, I dig the movie now and take back every negative thing I said about it after the first watch. The movie poster now hangs in my living room and I'll watch it a 3rd time when the un-rated version hits dvd & blue ray in November. thanks Oliver Stone! Sorry I ever doubted you!
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
12:49AM on 07/09/2012

I haven't read the book...

So, the review above is too biased for me. Most people who have the intent to see this are not going to have the same perspective, and thus would not have the same reaction. Yes, the ending could have been executed better and the narration removed - but all in all this movie was a great ride.Amazing acting performances and I think it is Stone's best film since Nixon. I would happily give it 8/10.
So, the review above is too biased for me. Most people who have the intent to see this are not going to have the same perspective, and thus would not have the same reaction. Yes, the ending could have been executed better and the narration removed - but all in all this movie was a great ride.Amazing acting performances and I think it is Stone's best film since Nixon. I would happily give it 8/10.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
9:00PM on 07/06/2012
I loved this film. It was an entertaining romp from beginning to end. However, if it hadn't been for the ending, I would have given the film a perfect 10/10. Now, I give it a 9/10. That's still pretty darn good, but I didn't have expectations which probably helped.
I loved this film. It was an entertaining romp from beginning to end. However, if it hadn't been for the ending, I would have given the film a perfect 10/10. Now, I give it a 9/10. That's still pretty darn good, but I didn't have expectations which probably helped.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
8:24PM on 07/05/2012

I dug it!

Although the ending tried to have its cake and eat it too. It didn't bother me THAT much. I left the theater a content filmgoer. A 7 on 10 from me! A fun ride, visually striking, sexy, violent, solid acting all around and it was nice to see Oliver Stone go back to his NBK days. PS: I never read the book.
Although the ending tried to have its cake and eat it too. It didn't bother me THAT much. I left the theater a content filmgoer. A 7 on 10 from me! A fun ride, visually striking, sexy, violent, solid acting all around and it was nice to see Oliver Stone go back to his NBK days. PS: I never read the book.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
6:27PM on 07/05/2012

This review does NOT reads like a 6/10....

More like a 7/10. Only the ending and the (somewhat) bland acting of Lively & Johnson being the shortcomings here. I have to see the movie myself to understand if the ending is a dealbreaker or not, but as I didn't read the book, I don't really care if its faithful or not. I just hoping for a hard R-rated fulltoos entertainment from this star-studded movie. It is quickly becoming a rare breed.
More like a 7/10. Only the ending and the (somewhat) bland acting of Lively & Johnson being the shortcomings here. I have to see the movie myself to understand if the ending is a dealbreaker or not, but as I didn't read the book, I don't really care if its faithful or not. I just hoping for a hard R-rated fulltoos entertainment from this star-studded movie. It is quickly becoming a rare breed.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
6:04PM on 07/05/2012
You know, hard R movies are dying breed. I'm still interested in checking this film.
You know, hard R movies are dying breed. I'm still interested in checking this film.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
10:14AM on 07/05/2012
Not doubting that the end probably sucks and ruined the film (for you) even though you say it's mostly great up until then. But boy do I hate reading a review of a film by a reviewer who has read (and loved) the book it's based on.

It's like having a lawyer who's fucking the opposition. Is Jimmy O, by any chance, reviewing this too later?
Not doubting that the end probably sucks and ruined the film (for you) even though you say it's mostly great up until then. But boy do I hate reading a review of a film by a reviewer who has read (and loved) the book it's based on.

It's like having a lawyer who's fucking the opposition. Is Jimmy O, by any chance, reviewing this too later?
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
9:01AM on 07/05/2012
(Extra Tidbit)
"1 Fuck you"
a lot shorter than i expected
(Extra Tidbit)
"1 Fuck you"
a lot shorter than i expected
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
1:23PM on 07/05/2012
Nailed it!
Nailed it!
7:22AM on 07/05/2012

Taylor Kitsch

Movie will bomb in the US, Taylor Kitsch is officially never getting another job again lol.
Movie will bomb in the US, Taylor Kitsch is officially never getting another job again lol.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
+1
7:00AM on 07/05/2012
I guess Im gonna see it anyways. Im a huge fan of winslows books even if "Savages" is pretty weak (character-wise and in the short-sentenced-lazy way it was written) compared to his "the power of the dog". That one is damn epic and I would love to see it one the big screen.
I guess Im gonna see it anyways. Im a huge fan of winslows books even if "Savages" is pretty weak (character-wise and in the short-sentenced-lazy way it was written) compared to his "the power of the dog". That one is damn epic and I would love to see it one the big screen.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
6:16AM on 07/05/2012
I only recently found out Savages was adapted but still have enough time to read it beforehand, so I ask: In your opinion, is it better to have read the book before or after seeing the film? (Or not at all)
I only recently found out Savages was adapted but still have enough time to read it beforehand, so I ask: In your opinion, is it better to have read the book before or after seeing the film? (Or not at all)
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
View All Comments

Latest Movie News Headlines


Top
Loading...
JoBlo's T-Shirt Shoppe | support our site... Wear Our Gear!