Oliver Stone might be best-known for making movies filled with political and cultural bomb-throwing (JFK, Natural Born Killers), but what makes his best works so eminently watchable is their visceral punch. He might claim he’s out to edify, but the guy can exploit with the best of ’em.
Savages is a chance for Stone to hone his pulp fiction. Based on the best-selling novel by Don Winslow (who also co-wrote the script with Stone and Shane Salerno), the movie follows two best buds in California who cultivate some mighty fine bud. Ben (Aaron Johnson, Kick-Ass) is the philanthropic Buddhist of the multimillion-dollar marijuana-growing operation, while Chon (Taylor Kitsch, Battleship) is the ex-Navy SEAL enforcer.
Their business isn’t all they have in common, as the friends also share a blonde babe named Ophelia (Blake Lively, Green Lantern), who goes simply by O, as in, “Oh, please, somebody, don’t let this bimbo narrate.”
Alas, she does, and her voice-over narration is as vapid as it is unnecessary.
You know what’s in store when a movie begins with grainy video of a Mexican drug cartel decapitating enemies. Happily sleazy and brutally lurid, Savages kicks into gear when the aforementioned cartel tries horning in on Ben and Chon. Ample shootings, stabbings, rapes and dope-smoking follow.
There are some irresistibly campy performances from Benicio Del Toro (The Wolfman) as a sadistic henchman, Salma Hayek (Grown Ups) as an improbable cartel leader and John Travolta (From Paris with Love), sans hairpiece, as a corrupt drug agent. They help compensate for the bland leads, especially Lively in another turn of defiant anti-charisma.