Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 16th October 2012
In cinemas around Australia from 18 October 2012.
Oliver Stone’s latest “Savages” is an entertaining, brutal and sexy thriller that just runs a tad too long. With an A-list Hollywood cast to boot, “Savages” is clearly a fun ride, but comes off slightly lacking.
“Savages” is a kind of film that exactly resembles its title. The people depicted within the film are criminals, murderers, drug dealers and the lowest of low-life. However director Oliver Stone somehow manages to glorify the drug trade into something that almost resembles the life of a paradise. This is a life worth living for, by the beach, the great ocean sea, under the clear blue sky, heartwarming beach house and plenty of sex, drugs and action. In a way Stone seems to be doing a Quentin Tarantino’s playback, with the menacing performance from Salma Hayek as the head of the Mexican drug lord, who provides a striking resemblance to Uma Thurman’s pitch straight black hair in “Pulp Fiction”. In fact, this kind of allusion doesn’t end there, as John Travolta takes on a cartoony role and the dialogue at times feel extremely like a Tarantino’s esquire. Still, “Savages” is beautiful to look at, extremely well directed and the action scenes are straight forwardly brutal as it should be.
Salma Hayek simply steals the show in a performance that requires her to be full-on menacing and as cold as the head of a Mexican drug empire requires. Hayek has the kind of presence and layers within her eyes that can capture the audience attention. Her final scenes of displaying humane vulnerability through the capture of her daughter, perfectly juxtaposes with her cold and calculated self. With top billing, Blake Lively is far from a complete actress. In many scenes, she seems rather lost, disconnected and at the end of the day, the audience cannot see a strong character within her. This is most likely one of the weaker performances of the film. Another issue is Chon (played by Taylor Kitsh), who is far too stoic and emotionless for the audience to understand his character. Although the role requires him to have “war-organism”, he is far too green to play the part. Perhaps the most interesting character to grace the screen is the almost unrecognizable and always brilliant Benicio Del Toro. Del Toro eases into the role as a ruthless killer and alongside Hayek uplifts and carries the film. In fact the showdown between the two provides the film one of its best moments and the acting sparks between the two is absolutely illuminating to watch. Aaron Johnson plays the other lover of Lively is decent, but falls short of creating an interesting lead character for the audience to follow. While the cartoony John Travolta appears in a short and brief cameo that only adds a few laughter to the proceedings.
The best thing about this film is undoubtedly the savagery of the brutal murderers, the straight forward killings and the almost borderline torture porn. The alternate ending seems rather manufactured and seems to suggest that Stone is once again either alluding or borrowing heavily from Tarantino’s works. That’s not to say that it is entirely a bad thing, but Stone is a fully capable director in his own right, essentially it begs the question as to why he feels the need to replicate or play on another director’s style is really beyond me.
All in all, “Savages” is clearly not one of Stone’s best works, but it contains more hits than misses. The film suffers from a slight pacing issue and the result is an overlong two hours plus thriller. The acting of the cast is also mixed to a certain degree. However, putting all these aside, “Savages” is still an extremely fun, sexy and brutal film, even if it really feel like something inspired out of Tarantino’s factory. Then again, any comparison to Tarantino can only be a good thing. (Neo 2012)
I rated it 7/10