Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Savages’ Review: Masterfully Acted; Upsetting Climax

O (Blake Lively) warns us at the beginning of the film, that this is a crazy story. A story about love, sex, drama, drugs and she may not be alive at the end of it.

This review is coming from someone who has not read the cult-hit book of the same name written by Don Winslow. I’m sure most people who will see the film probably have not read the book either and that’s just fine in this case. Director Oliver Stone (“Any Given Sunday” & “Wall Street”) takes this fascinating story and turns it into a fine film, full of violence, drama and passion. The problem, though, is that Stone wraps the movie up in a pretty little bow, giving it the ultimate Tinseltown touch.

As “Savages” begins we are introduced to its three main characters; John (Taylor Kitsch), Ben (Aaron Johnson) and O, short for Ophelia (Lively). John, nicknamed Chon, and Ben are polar opposites and best friends. John is an ex-Navy SEAL, who has a short temper and is quick to violence, while Ben is gentle and thinks before he acts. They live right on the ocean in Laguna Beach, CA, where they also share a beautiful girlfriend, O. O, the film’s narrator, is carefree, seems to be in love and sincere with both boys and is your ultimate Orange Co. beach bunny.

John and Ben co-run the best marijuana business in the world, that has recently caught the attention of the Mexican cartel, headed by Elena (a strong performance by Salma Hayek). When the duo turns down the partnership with the cartel, Elena has O kidnapped, to show the boys the partnership was not optional.

I can see why Winslow’s story became wildly popular. It’s intriguing, sexy and keeps you on the edge of your seat and as a female, I wondered how this girl, O is completely sincere with both John and Ben. Throughout the majority of the film, I was trying to figure out which one she really loved and who she would end of choosing. It just seems impossible for three people to be in love equally, although Lively does a superb job keeping up. Like I said, I didn’t read the book, but I can assume that John, Ben and O were portrayed as both lovers and a little family. They all care for each other and I loved watching their unusual story unfold onscreen.

With that being said, this is easily Kitsch’s best role. The poor actor has had a rough start to the year with major flops “John Carter” and “Battleship,” but his role as the bad-ass John really suits him and I’m interested to see the roles he picks following this one. Johnson, who’ve we seen in “Kick-Ass” and “Albert Nobbs,” is also fantastic at playing the gentle Ben.

The real star of “Savages,” is Benicio Del Toro as Lado, the evil enforcer who sports a Mexican mullet and works for Elena. I can only imagine that Lado was creepy as hell in the books and Del Toro nailed the vicious character onscreen. There was never a dull moment in his scenes, which leads to me say that he is one of the best actors working today.

The majority of Stone’s film is a 4/5, but it’s the climatic scene that is overkill. I’m not sure why both Stone and Winslow decided to add that little bit in there, I think it should have been saved for the special features. But the point is the twist hurts the film and it hurts the film badly.

Despite the weird climax, “Savages” is an intriguing story that translates well onscreen because of its masterful cast including Kitsch, Johnson, Hayek and especially Del Toro.

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