Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively and John Travolta are just a few of the stars headlining this ambitious but finally moronic effort from Oliver Stone. When two pot growers are forced to face off with the Mexican mob, they must use their yin-yang dynamic to free the girl, settle the score and survive endless rounds of machine gunfire. Though the movie makes little sense, Stone keeps us dazzled by the spectacle and the stupidity.
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, Benicio Del Toro, Demian Bichir, Salma Hayek, John Travolta
Rating: Two stars out of five
Thanks to Oliver Stone's hard work, Savages writes its own review.
A star-studded strangulation of the senses, Stone's latest piece tries to win us over with a story of two very different potheads who managed to build up a weedy empire in the golden state.
Ben (Aaron Johnson) is the stereotypical stoner who talks like an extra from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and goes to third world countries to help children. He also wears a bandana most of the time and sports patchy but soulful bursts of facial hair. He's, like, sincere.
Chon (Taylor Kitsch) is the exact opposite. An elite soldier and dedicated pothead, Chon helped Ben rise in the business with his muscle. He's, like, tough.
Together they make one man, at least that's the way O -- for Ophelia -- feels about it.
When the movie opens, O (Blake Lively) is having sex with Chon. A sweaty scene or two later, she's using parts of Ben as a bathtub toy.
You see, poor O is a lost soul who sees both men as her only family and Mary Jane as her only friend. She's rooted to both growers, so when the Mexican mob moves in on Chon and Ben's turf, O becomes the target and the tool to pull both men asunder.
She is kidnapped halfway through the reel by the ruthless mob boss, played with lip-licking cheek by Salma Hayek, enabling the rest of this mess to rest on the normally solid ground of a break-out plot.
Perhaps the fact that Savages is set in the world of stoners explains why it makes no sense and seems to stall time, turning every minute into what feels like an hour.
Then again, maybe it's the idea that our de facto heroes are orgiastic criminals.
There's just not a whole lot to love in this movie that tries to bring elements of previous Stone films, including Wall Street and Platoon, as well as Natural Born Killers, and wrap it in a single Savages package.
From the moment we're thrown into the world of Ben and Chon via our seemingly omniscient and altogether omnivorous narrator, O, Stone hits us with an immediate empathy gap.
He acknowledges it in the tedious voice over: "I know what you're thinking," says O on the soundtrack as we watch her do a do-si-do with both dudes. "You're thinking slut …"
Actually, at this point, we're probably thinking "bad movie" more than anything else, but Stone makes us suffer through reams of blood-soaked pages before he releases the chokehold after not one, but two endings.
And is there anything that screams "I don't know how to end my movie!" more than two completely different endings -- sewn together with a cheap voice-over explaining: That's how I dreamed it would happen ... but this is actually how it all went down ...
That's where the slow groan becomes audible, because to Stone's credit, he makes this piece of ashy trash somewhat watchable for the duration.
The world of drugs and dealers is given all the glamour Hollywood can give, which means we're getting glory shots of mansions alongside a glistening stack of bloody bodies.
In most Hollywood movies, the gore and violence is part of some unspoken moral code, quiet assurance killers can't get away with murder. Yet, Stone places his heroes in moral no man's land: Non-violent lawbreakers who want to do good with all their ill-gotten gains.
"It's like Robin Hood," says one of the dudes, once they decide it would be a good idea to steal money from the decapitating banditos.
At that moment, as Stone abdicates any responsibility for the moral equation, the audience is given a hint of what he may have been shooting for in the big picture. But that's the only clue.
Every actor seems to be starring in a different movie.
While Hayek chews the scenery, batting her eyelashes with every execution order, Johnson pours both of his big blue eyes into creating a sense of earnest integrity. Travolta goes big, because he can't go home, and Kitsch feels like the G.I. Joe who ended up in a box of Barbies.
I still haven't figured out which movie Blake Lively was in, but Stone clearly didn't notice. He makes her the star of this film even though her character has no, well, character. She is merely the girl glue that lets the two boys love each other without being gay.
Once again, to his credit, Stone acknowledges that in the movie, too. He's self-aware and winking but the movie doesn't work. Savages savages itself.