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2012 movie directed by Oliver Stone

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Oliver Stone's Take on the Marijuana Debate

  • Jul 7, 2012
At first look of the trailers of Oliver Stone’s “Savages”, it would be easy to say that the film is a violent action thriller that is wrapped around the premise of a turf war over marijuana. Based on the novel with the same name by Don Winslow, the film does indeed go into the world of marijuana and certainly is very violent. One can say that the aging filmmaker is indeed trying to make one more mark in his somewhat mixed resume. Stone has something to say with his new film; he brings this world from the look of business and even touches on the political arena where marijuana moves around.

                         Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively and Aaron Johnson in "Savages."

Ben and Chon (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Taylor Kitsch, John Carter) are friends who are also partners in their business of ‘pot-growing’. Ben is an activist and believes in doing his part in changing the world, while Chon is an Afghan-Iraq war veteran who has seen his own share of violence in the world. They are very different, and yet they manage to co-exist as the ‘brains and the brawn’ of their business. They get along so well that they even share one girlfriend whom they call “O”, which stands for Ofelia (Blake Lively, Green Lantern) and the arrangement between the three is of something where everyone gets what they need and want. Things become much more dangerous and complicated, when a Mexican cartel called “Baja” led by Elena (Salma Hayek, Frida) and her top henchman, Lado (Benicio Del Toro. 21 Grams) muscle into their action for its share of their profits. Ofelia becomes the negotiating tool as the group kidnaps her. But Ben and Chon have different ideas in mind.

                       A scene from "Savages."

                      A scene from "Savages."

“Savages” is about ‘arrangements. It can feel like one contrived motion picture, and yet, once you start to think that you have it figured out, it goes into another route. This world created by Oliver Stone is all about the world of bad guys, where the anti-heroes aren’t exactly heroes at all, where in essence they are also the bad guys. It is all about survival and out maneuvering other bad guys. In this world, nothing is fair, while the bad guys do get their due, sometimes, it sure gets mighty complicated when certain things turn their ugly heads. Stone touches on the area that says that there are things that will always be, and yet, one can use these things to their own advantage (or disadvantage) to get what they want or need. While the message isn’t pleasant, there is something real around its premise.

The film is violent, and it isn’t shy about showing its graphic nature. This cartel world revolves around it being enforced by intimidation and this is usually done with the threat of life. There is one really unnerving torture scene and Stone does not hide its graphic details. While there is action to be had with the movie, it is more driven with a lot of dialogue as Ben and Chon try to out-think and stay ahead of their nemesis by playing some “Yojimbo-like” maneuvering and well, some street smarts, guts and technical know-how. It is nothing new, and yet the script makes it work. Stone sets the groundwork of the film carefully and his viewers can see its process. There is no ‘coming from behind’ twists, you know the rival characters are trying to screw one another, and the viewer is left to anticipate what will happen next. It works in many levels, and I found myself curious if such ruses will work. Accompanied by the gritty, dirty and grainy style of cinematography and camerawork, the film had no issues communicating that it was indeed a world filled with bad guys. Stone's talent in shooting scenes came as no surprise as he was still the a a tried and true filmmaker of this time.

                       A scene from "Savages."

                      Benicio Del Toro in "Savages."

Everyone wants a piece of the pie, and this is all Stone and company have set their screenplay on. It is all about ‘arrangements’ an d is partly narrated by “O“. I suppose what engaged me with “Savages” is the way the characters are different. There is no question of morality, these guys were simply doing what they believe is best for them. There is no love triangle between Chon, Ben and “O”. They know their limits and well, truth be told, their arrangement is kind of a turn on. They are confident and they care about one another. Stone was able to connect this weird aspect to their relationship, I guess this is a way to communicate their own sense of self, and their relationship is wildly sexy in many ways.

What also made the film work for me, is the fact that the ‘Queen’ of the cartel has more dimensions than I expected. Sure, it wasn’t unique, but I liked the way that Stone gave her two sides to her character. Elena is a strong woman, she is ruthless, but she is still emotional. She can be nurturing and yet she is cruel. Hayek does a great job flowing into her persona, while her enforcer, Lado marvelously played by Del Toro, is your usual ruthless killer type, who is loyal up to a point. Of course, this is an Oliver Stone film, and a government agency is represented by a sleazy dude called Dennis (John Travolta) who would sell out just about anyone as long as it benefited him.

The final act of the film comes in two. One is in the form of a Mexican stand off and another that comes a little more closer to the truth. In the world of crime, everyone can win big, as long as it is their own time to rule. Everyone wants a piece, even certain representatives of the government, which is why they run rampant. Stone seemed to express that this is just the natural order of things, and that everyone gets their due in the end. I guess, this is Stone saying that such things can be avoided if a certain kind of ‘high’ can be legalized, then such complications would never happen. “Savages” is rightfully named, now can one change this savage world or is it the savagery that changes us?

Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "Savages." Demian Bichir in "Savages."
Oliver Stone's Take on the Marijuana Debate Oliver Stone's Take on the Marijuana Debate

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July 09, 2012
Thinking about seeing this one, love the pics man. Great review as always Sir.
July 09, 2012
thanks, Alex! Nice to see you back.
July 08, 2012
Great review. I really have to get names right. LOL.
July 08, 2012
hey, did you guys see BRAVE? I thought you had reviewed it but maybe I was mistaken.
July 08, 2012
Action packed, I'm sure! Great pictures are included too.
More Savages reviews
review by . July 07, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
By Joan Alperin Schwartz                     'Chon gives me orgasms...I give him Wargasms'...said in V.O. by the character known as O...and it just gets better from there.                                  'Savages' directed by the …
review by . July 07, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Although the convoluted plot, the shocking depictions of violence, and the heavy reliance on dialogue and character all suggest a rich, complicated film, the message of Oliver Stone’s Savages is in fact profoundly fundamental: Marijuana should be legalized. Without anyone directly saying it, we’re being told that its demonization by the American government alone has only given more power to drug cartels, specifically in Mexico, which …
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William ()
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Please "Like" Film and Movies and Keep the Economy strong....LOL!!      My Interests: Movies, Anime, History, Martial Arts, Comics, Entertainment,Cooking, Things I don't … more
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Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

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