Film: Suspending disbelief in “Savages”
July 20th, 2012
Omaha, NE – Director Oliver Stone is back with another twisted tale of sex and violence. From the Movieha podcast, Ryan Syrek and Matt Lockwood take a look at Savages.
Ryan: Although nearly every movie requires some suspension of disbelief, director Oliver Stone may have gone too far with Savages, a movie that requires me to think it’s possible two men would fall deeply in love with Green Lantern’s Blake Lively.
Matt: That’s just one of the clues that this movie is playing fast and loose with the real world, creating a kind of criminal underworld fairy tale in which it’s not so much “happily ever after” as “whoever doesn’t get shot in the face had a pretty good day.”
Ryan: For the most part, every character in the movie aside from Ben, played by Aaron Johnson, is given a staggeringly dumb name. Ben’s partner in his lucrative marijuana growing operation is an Iraq and Afghanistan vet named Chon, played by Taylor Kitsch. Not John, Shaun, or even Chong, but CHON. Lively plays the mutual girlfriend of Chon and Ben, who is named O, which is short for Ophelia, which is a sign that someone was trying too hard.
Matt: O gets kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel run by Salma Hayek and enforced by Benecio Del Toro, who is perhaps the most gifted actor when it comes to playing skeevy, gross, and totally fun bad guys who mumble incoherently. The remainder of the movie is a cat and mouse game involving John Travolta as a crooked DEA officer and the whole thing wraps up with maybe the most tone deaf and stupid final 15 minutes in an otherwise satisfying movie this year.
Ryan: As much as everyone is bagging on Kitsch, being that his other two summer movies, John Carter and Battleship, sank faster than cement scuba gear, he’s just fine here. So now we know definitively, he can play good looking and angry and that is all.
Matt: Lively is the dead weight at the center of the film, unable to generate enough spark or charisma to make anyone really care if she gets rescued or not. Somehow Stone keeps things interesting, despite meandering for a good chunk of the film’s middle, but not before really biffing it at the end.
Ryan: Yeah, I know it’s bad form to spoil the ending, so we won’t, but it really does make a movie that I was at least having a decent time watching into a frustrating mess. While Del Toro and Hayek seem to be having the most fun, the whole thing isn’t quite gleeful and reckless enough to be darkly entertaining nor dramatic enough to take seriously.
Matt: The result is another film destined to be a footnote in the career of a director who once did great things.
Ryan: Here’s hoping he can capture his form, even if there’s very little chance of Savages capturing much money moving forward, as Batman is back this week. And as The Dark Knight Rises, everybody else’s box office falls.
Editorial note: The Movieha podcast is produced in partnership with The Reader and is available at thereader.com.