“Adrenaline is natures way of telling you ‘don’t fuck up.’”
What makes it right for one to complain about the disparity between what one imagines a movie will be and what it turns out to be? Is the fact that there is one the fault of the film or the viewer? What if the only thing the viewer hopes for is to be able to use the word “good” when asked that person’s feelings about said film? These are questions I ask myself everytime I walk of out a film not liking it. Somehow I start to question whether I am to blame for the fact that I didn’t like the movie.
Savages is, what I like to call, the Smoking Aces of drug films. When it comes to movies about drug dealers, suppliers and/or manufacturers you have a lot of examples to pick from. You have the comedy side of Pineapple Express, the serious dramatic version of Traffic and the action packed edition The Raid: Redemption(the guy they’re going after is a drug lord, I’ll take that); Savages however, almost seems like it wants to be all three versions of that in one, without having enough interesting bits to keep any of the above sustainable over the span of over two hours.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Oliver Stone hasn’t made a good movie since the Y2K bug was a thing people were honestly worried about. Before that threshold he was somewhat revered for films such as Any Given Sunday, Natural Born Killers and Platoon. Now he’s added such gems as Alexander, W., and now Savages. Each of those films try to be some sort of action packed version of the genre it exists in – history, politics and drug culture – without actually having enough meat within its own genre to warrant any love at all. With Savages his crucial misstep is that he attempts to lump a lot of the weight of the film on us falling in love with the performance of Benecio Del Toro, as Lado – the assassin and all around leg worker for the Mexican cartel – but the truth in fact is that is nowhere near enough.
The film opens with the narration of O (Blake Lively) saying that this is her story and just because she’s telling us this story doesn’t mean she lives in the end. I want to make a petition online to end this trend. Please can screenwriters stop trying to be smart and opening narrations with characters already acknowledging the fact that they can die even though they’re the narrator? It’s not smart, it’s annoying, especially when you have an ending as troublesome as this film does.
What this movie also suffers from is tired characters that never seem to feel any version of interesting. Elena (Salma Hayek) is the woman who’s the head of the Baja cartel, who gets to shout a lot and exude power from having an almost mother-like quality, Ben (Aaron Johnson) is the hippie scholar who believes in Buddha and loves weed, Chon (Taylor Kitsch) is the war veteran who’s ready to kick in doors whenever you need and doesn’t take shit from anyone, and Dennis (John Travolta) is the law enforcement that you think is your friend but is really just an opportunist with “friends” on all sides of the argument. The only character who doesn’t make the list is Lado (Benecio Del Toro) who is another trite played character, but I almost forgive him because I enjoy seeing Benecio be the menacing bad guy for a bit, not enough to forgive the film, but enough to forgive him.
The biggest problem though, character/actor-wise, is with O (Blake Lively) as the California-girl who just loves the sun, weed and her two boyfriends (if you can call it that) who share her. Between O’s narration and bordering on Keanu Reeves’ level of emoting, I don’t know what was worse. The fact that a film this boring was more than two hours or the fact that I had to hear O in scenes she wasn’t even in thereby ruining said scene immediately.