Savages 3/4 A Movie review from James Berardinelli

October 19, 2012 by James Berardinelli - Reelviews
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Savages is a drug-fueled crime delirium that doesn’t break much new ground in the genre but offers a volatile concoction of violence, heroism, and amorality that is compulsively watchable.

The director is Oliver Stone, a filmmaker often associated with controversial material, but Savages represents a straightforward, non-political film that feels closer to what we have come to expect from Michael Mann than Stone. There’s no ulterior motive here; the director’s goal is to bring Don Winslow’s novel to life on the screen and he does so effectively. The screenplay has its share of twists and turns, but none are of the sort that stretch credulity, and there are individual scenes in which the degree of suspense and tension escalates to edge-of-seat levels. The biggest problems with Savages are several narrative dead spots and the introductory sequences (obviously modeled after those in Martin Scorsese’s Casino), which are needlessly convoluted. Lengthy expository scenes should do a better job of setting up the backstory than these do.

Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson) are mismatched drug dealers. Chon, a veteran of several tours in Afghanistan, is a cold killer who thinks nothing of putting a bullet into the head of someone who double-crosses him. Ben, on the other hand, is a pacifist who follows Buddhist teachings and uses his share of the profits to fund overseas philanthropic enterprises. Both men are in love with Ophelia (Blake Lively), and she is in love with them. The trio cohabits in a state of unconventional domestic bliss, where threesomes are regular occurrences and everything occurs through a haze of marijuana smoke. (Remember, though: it’s Ben and Chon, not Cheech and Chong.)

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