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December 21, 2012

Savages

by Franz Patrick


Savages (2012)
★ / ★★★★

Chon (Taylor Kitsch), a war veteran, and Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a botanist, run a successful, independent cannabis business. When a drug cartel, led by Elena (Salma Hayek), gets wind of their operation, Chon and Ben receive a video of seven men being decapitated. If they do not comply to her demands of a forced partnership so her business can gain the duo’s network and expertise, especially since their product is more addictive than the norm, she collects their head. When Chon and Ben try to leave the country with the sort-of girlfriend, O (Blake Lively), they share in every imaginable way, Elena kidnaps O to get what she wants.

“Savages,” based on the novel by Don Winslow, is an exercise of boredom punctuated by extreme ridiculousness attempting to sashay as mild entertainment, beginning with Lively’s sexually aroused zombie narration that is more soporific than purportedly poetic.

In order for the film to work, it almost needs to function as a relationship drama because its core is supposed to be the connection among Chon, Ben, and O. Instead, the writers, Shane Salerno, Don Winslow, and Oliver Stone, relegate O into regaling us with her blonde locks, bedroom eyes, and long legs as if we are supposed to care for her on the sole basis of her being genetically gifted. Prior to the two guys being caught in Elena’s drug underworld, there is a plethora of redundant talk about love being the binding element among the trio but is never actually shown. It’s as if O’s idea of love is that of a young teenager’s who has neither experienced the world nor has an idea of what it really means be loved beyond giving a fellatio in the men’s restroom in a tacky mall.

Although the relationship’s emotional level leaves a lot to be desired, what the trio have on a physical level is even more maddening. There is one somewhat sensual sex scene, a threesome among the main characters, in the entire film and it is frustrating because the filmmakers show not an once of courage to see it through. We see O kissing Ben and then O kissing Chon. They begin to take their clothes off. And that is it. Because physical intimacy is a big part in our protagonists’ relationship, it is only natural to allow the sex to run its course. Furthermore, the actors are easy on the eyes so it makes sense to actually use them.

I imagined that if this had been written and directed by the French, shying away from the sensuality and sexuality would not have been an option (or had been minimized at most). Instead, we are given in-your-face but mostly meaningless violence. Why do we need to see a person putting a hole in and through someone’s skull so often? If its aim is to show the ruthlessness of the drug business, it establishes that already sans level of violence often seen in horror pictures, all gore and bereft of ideas.

Directed by Oliver Stone, “Savages” has one good thing going for it which is Elena’s maternal issues. It’s amusing that she’s essentially a crime boss but her biggest worry is her daughter not wanting anything to do with her. She’s so desperate for her child’s affection that at times she almost wants to reach out to O, her captive. Although this strand is interesting, it never delivers on its promise.

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