Savages | Movie review
Oliver Stone reconnects with his wilder past.
Somewhere between the ’roid rage of Any Given Sunday (1999) and the turgid earnestness of Alexander (2004), World Trade Center (2006), W. (2008) and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010), Oliver Stone went from being a reliable purveyor of formal excess to a halfhearted didact afraid of his subject matter’s potency. Savages plays like a conscious attempt to reconnect with the wilder past. Based on a popular novel by Don Winslow, the material is tawdry enough to be considered a goof. Superfluous political quips (“Welcome to the recession, boys!”) and an interest in illicit uses of military training serve as reminders of a time when Stone’s films had currency. There are also amazing histrionics—Salma Hayek breaking balls as the head of Baja’s most infamous cartel; Benicio Del Toro bemusedly stroking an absurd mustache; John Travolta mugging as a corrupt DEA agent—few other directors would lack the discipline to allow.
Still, there’s a fine line between productive slumming and simply mucking around, and your tolerance for Savages depends on your ability to ride out its ludicrousness. Say you’re an Iraq-Afghanistan vet (Taylor Kitsch) and a Buddhist (Aaron Johnson) who grow the world’s best weed. You’ve decided to screw over the aforementioned cartel on a deal. That night, do you (a) hightail it out of town ASAP or (b) hold that thought and get unbelievably baked with the beach bunny girlfriend (Blake Lively) the two of you share? After the blond is kidnapped, Savages spins into a series of entertaining double crosses that seem almost perversely random. The opening voiceover hints at unreliable narration, but that’s putting it too simply: At war with himself, Stone insists on blowing up his movie only to put it back together.