Running Time: 131 minutes
Starring: Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Benecio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, John Travolta
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Rating: 5 out of 10
Three friends and drug dealers are in a fight for their lives when a Mexican Cartel tries to muscle in on their action.
Films can be made or broken by the final scene or ending. Director Ron Howard is a master of memorable movie endings that can make average films feel great. Oliver Stone the director of this film needs to study up on Howard’s technique a little bit. The ending of this film is what kept it from being a recommendation from me. The Savages follows the story of three young adults named Ophelia (O), Chon, and Ben. They are best friends, lovers, family, but most importantly, fantastic pot growers and distributors. They live the seemingly perfect life in California. They are young and rich but that is all about to change when a Mexican Drug cartel tries to muscle their way into their business.
The film narrated by the character O is a slow purposeful drama with very interesting characters and good dialogue. There are scenes of action but they don’t define this film as such. They are added to enhance the plot and pick up the pace of the film as it does drag at various points. I liked the story a lot because although the main focus is the drug trade the unorthodox love story between O, Chon, and Ben, is certainly a nice change from the typical romantic coupling we always see. The film asks the question what would you do for love? The film answers that with the clear answer….anything. After meeting the three main characters you will instantly like what you see. Ben is this laid back, hippy looking guy, and because he is young and does not look like the typical head of a drug syndicate you instantly like him. Chon is the muscle of the group and his quick hot headed responses fit well with Ben’s more peaceful nature. You will like O also because she is so down to earth and fits perfectly between them. (That is both figuratively and literally). Their friendship is easily believed if unconventional and easy to root for. The film with overt scenes of blood and violence is an easy watch but always seems a tad slow and drawn out.
The battle for the drug trade they started is what makes this story so solid. The three of them are easily outmatched against this Mexican cartel and yet they fight on for the sake of what they love. You like the three of them because they are an odd underdog story. You will find the film has too many story lines and characters and because of this, the movie runs longer than it should. I am not saying this film is confusing because of the story lines. It just tries to make it into this grand tale of intertwining stories and characters when a more linear story would have been much better suited in my mind.
O played by Blake Lively does a solid job narrating and being the love interest. She brings a lot to the film without having a huge part. Ben played by Aaron Johnson of Kick Ass fame shows he can hold his own as a lead in a Dramatic role. He brings a quiet presence to the role and does a good job when his character is emotional and stressed on film. Chon played by Hollywood’s version of a money dumpster Taylor Kitsch (See John Carter and Battleship total gross to budget numbers) shows he can do the job when he isn’t the outright lead in a film. He is solid if not remarkable as an ex army tough guy. The role is not challenging but he doesn’t falter with it, winning back some critical acclaim from me after his other movie flops.
Lado played by Benecio Del Toro is part of the Mexican Drug Cartel and plays the role of their enforcer. He gets what he wants through torture and manipulation. His portrayal is brilliant and he could easily be up for a best supporting actor nod for this year. He is pure evil and is a great watch whenever he is on screen. His boss Elena played by Salma Hayek was awful in the role. People are going to say she was so raw and gritty and it is not like her usual roles. That is true but she is so unbelievable as a drug lord that the film loses traction whenever she is on film. Her delivery is laughable and her presence pales in comparison to Del Toros. She was a big miss for me. Lastly is Dennis a DEA agent played by John Travolta and he was also a big miss in this role. He never changes his style from movie to movie so he always comes off as loud and comical even when he is trying to be dramatic. He detracted from this film with a cheesy portrayal of his character.
The film has its ups and downs but I was always intrigued. The action scenes with some shaky editing are still great watches and the battle for the drug trade keeps you interested right until the end scene. I was going to make this film a recommendation but the ending ruined it for me. A film that will make you feel a gamut of emotion from fear to sympathy is ruined in that one scene and that is a shame.
Director Oliver Stone has had a rough go at the movie making business in the last few years. It is good to see he doesn’t always have to make a political statement when shooting a flick. The script and casting are solid with a few exceptions and his action sequences are high tempo if not crisp. He spaces the scenes of action out which lets you enjoy the story. His film is slow and runs about 15 minutes too long with too many uninteresting side stories. He also butchers the ending causing this movie from being good to average. I am glad to see he is back though and does a solid job with just a few inconsistencies.
I cannot recommend this film while it never loses your interest Stone somehow savaged the ending.
T Factor + If you like movies about drugs this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you do not like slow dramas this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: The Town, Heat