November 11, 2012

Filthy Review - 'Savages'

Savages (2012)

Review by Jude Felton

Director Oliver Stone has without doubt been a favorite director of mine for years, and between the mid-80s’ and mid-90s’ I pretty much enjoyed the hell out of every movie he made, aside from Nixon, which I have still yet to see. Stone definitely puts his own stamp on each film, and is never shy of letting you know what his stance is on any given subject. Whether you agree or not is down to you, but damn he has made some good movies, even if he has gone off the boil of late.

The latest movie from Stone is Savages, a film which for me reminded of his films Salvador and U-Turn, with maybe a little Natural Born Killers thrown in for good measure. Those three movies mentioned are probably my favorite of his films, and whilst Savages is not in their league, it is a film with a good set of cahones swinging between its legs. Based on the novel Don Winslow, the film follows Ben and Chon; two friends who happen to be drug dealers, and very good ones at that. Aside from their mutual appreciation of the herb, they also share the same girlfriend, Ophelia, a situation that seems to please everyone involved.

Word quickly spreads south of the Border as to the success of their operation and it piques the interest of the Baja Cartel, which is run by Elena (Salma Hayek). The cartel comes up with a business proposition for the two lads, one that they aren’t expected to decline on. However, this is what happens and Elena doesn’t take too kindly to it. As a result Ophelia, or O as she is known, gets herself kidnapped and the boys need to find a way of getting her back.

Also along for the ride is John Travolta as a perfectly sleazy DEA Officer and Benicio Del Toro as an equally sleazy hit man. These two, along with Hayek, continually threaten to overshadow the two leads of Aaron Johnson (as Ben) and Taylor Kitsch (as Chon), as their performances are definitely the most entertaining of the movie. Blake Lively, as O, gives a solid performance, and it is her character that narrates the tale to the viewer.

Now, if you have ever been in any doubt as to how ruthless the Mexican drug cartels can be, this film will give you a very good idea. Just have a look around on the Net, or in magazines, and you will know that they aren’t adverse to some extreme violence, and Stone translates that violence into this film. Hell, it opens with a masked individual wielding a chainsaw, and whilst we don’t see this particular attack, we do get to see the grisly aftermath. Savages doesn’t hold back on the violence or the language, and very much lives up to its title; this is Stone at his least subtle and he seems to be having fun with it.

The film itself is bright, with an almost sun-scorched look about it, as the action switches between California and Mexico, with Stone mixing up the film stock as he is fond of. It’s by no means a Natural Born Killers mix of styles, with only the occasional moment here and there being affected.

Aside from being a bruisingly violent film, visually and in tone, it also has some fine action scenes thrown in and on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It could have done without the dual ending, which will make sense once you watch it, but aside from that it was a good film. I watched the Unrated cut, which runs 11 minutes longer than the theatrical cut (also included) in this release, giving it an almost 2 and ½ hour running time. Now, I didn’t see the shorter version of the film, so I couldn’t tell what was added in the unrated cut, although I am guessing some of the grislier moments might have been added. Either way, I didn’t feel that anything was out of place, and there was a good flow to the film.

The release from Universal is a damned good one, with the Blu-ray, DVD, Digital and UltraViolet versions included (and it looks and sounds bloody good in Hi-Def), and a good amount of extras. Included in the extras are audio commentaries, a 5 part ‘making of’ and deleted scenes, as well as BD-Live content. All in all a very good release.

Savages isn’t up there with the quality of Stone’s earlier work, but it is still a damned decent movie, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Savages is released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on November 13th from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

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