Savages seems to be a film that has failed to hit a point it was trying to make, as well as struggling to identify what is more savage in the film. At one point Ben (played by Aaron Johnson) states that these Mexican drug cartels who decapitate those who get in their way are savages, and I would have to perhaps agree with that. On another point a Mexican hit man who works for the cartels (Benicio Del Toro) states that two American men who share the same woman is savage. I'm not quite sure this definition stands alongside the other but it does show a diversity between the two sides that fight it out in this drug based thriller. The problem though is that Oliver Stone has turned this film into the definition of savage! It opens strongly; it gives us something to hook to. The middle loses us, stripping away any credibility any character had. And the end is pure an utter garbage, in such a way that the film climaxes at the point where the nose dive finally hits the ground. Now that is savage.
We open with a narration from O (played by Blake Lively) telling us that just because she is narrating doesn't mean she survives this story. She then goes on to explain her love triangle with Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben, who are big drug dealers in America. Although, very expositionally I may add, O tells us the basis of the story and her relationship we never fully know or understand why two men would willingly share a girl for the rest of their lives without one of them becoming remotely jealous. After this we see that a new Mexican drug cartel are rolling into town and want to do a deal with the two Americans. However they reject and plan to flee into hiding due to their fear of what these Mexicans can and will do. Once the Mexicans catch wind of their planned disappearance they kidnap the one thing that means so much to them, O. From here they are made to help in the distribution of drugs in order to get their girl back but, with Chon having served in Afghanistan, they decide to fight back and try to get O back themselves.
The film does have something going for it, and in the first half they build up the intrigue and really show us the evil that is the Mexican cartel, that is until we see that it is actually Salma Hayek as the big baddie, which to me really did not work!! Benicio Del Toro was the real antagonist here as he was creepy, sinister, and damn arrogant. He was the one you wanted to beat, not Hayek. The cinematography adds to this as it is close, hot, and sweaty and you can feel that simply by the position and look of the camera. The first half introduces all of these characters and we look forward to seeing how the boys will get their girl back. We are even treated to a decent set piece in where the boys fight their way to Hayek's money via blowing up everyone in sight. Unfortunately however the following scenes ruin the entire movie completely. Hayek meets face to face with her captive O and the conversation and dialogue between them is completely laughable, and from here the film completely dived. O asks a Mexican drug cartel boss 'so how did you get into the business?' What? Why on Earth would anyone who is being held prisoner ask their capture how they do what they do? It is such a strange scene which highlights a poor script and average acting from both ladies. It's a shame when the film started so strong. From here we get a few scenes that could have saved it but instead we plod along to an ending that is so bad that they decided to do it again! If you don't understand what I mean by that then see the film and see for yourself.
Considering the film is packed with good actors it really doesn't show. The best thing about it is Del Toro who is menacing and scary, although the ending for his character does not keep in with his character through the rest of the film. The rest of the cast, including John Travolta as a corrupt agent, don't seem to believe the material they have been giving. Travolta is eating the entire time, Lively looks like she could be in a music video and the two leads are hard to care for when they are drug dealers in a three way, heroin addict like, relationship with one another. It is hard to see how the film took off when there ends up being no depth to it and very little likeability in any of the characters. The story is also very poorly told. It is hard to keep up with what is going on, and everyone back stabs everyone to a point where you fail to understand why. Characters are also brought up too late on with only a brief glimpse of them and a few references to their name. It ends up all being a bit of a mess, and that is before the ending which is plain dreadful.
In a sense we started with a film full of potential that ended as a film full of problems. It took a huge turn for the worse at the half way point and never managed to recover. Character motivations didn't make sense, plot points were just thrown in, and some of the acting was not up to these usual superstars' standards. One of them was Kick Ass and that is hard to believe based on his performance here. One of my main frustrations here was when the Mexicans talk in sentences half in English and half in Mexican. Why? What is the point? It just added to the confusing nature that plagued this film by the end credits. Oliver Stone has directed some great films in his career and, despite some great names on show here, he fails to bring everything together to make a good film.
Pros: Cinematography brings you into the film, and Del Toro is good.
Cons: Failed characterisation and a poor second half topped off with a ridiculous end.
5 / 10
Top 10 films of 2012 so far:
1. The Dark Knight Rises 10 / 10
2. The Hunger Games 8 / 10
3. Snow White And The Huntsman 8 / 10
4. Avengers Assemble 7.5 / 10
5. Ted 7.5 / 10
6. 21 Jump Street 7.5 / 10
7. Lawless 7 / 10
8. The Expendables 2 7 / 10
9. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol 7 / 10
10. The Grey 7 / 10