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Friday, July 6, 2012
Strong brutal and grisly violence, some graphic sexuality, nudity, drug use and language throughout
Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Demian Bichir, Emile Hirsch
Shane Salerno, Don Winslow, Oliver Stone
Three-time Oscar®-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone returns to the screen with the ferocious thriller Savages, featuring the all-star ensemble cast of Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Emile Hirsch and Demian Bichir. The film is based on Don Winslow’s best-selling crime novel that was named one of The New York Times' Top 10 Books of 2010. Laguna Beach entrepreneurs Ben (Johnson), a peaceful and charitable Buddhist, and his closest friend Chon (Kitsch), a former Navy SEAL and ex-mercenary, run a lucrative, homegrown industry—raising some of the best marijuana ever developed. They also share a one-of-a-kind love with the extraordinary beauty Ophelia (Lively). Life is idyllic in their Southern California town…until the Mexican Baja Cartel decides to move in and demands that the trio partners with them. When the merciless head of the BC, Elena (Hayek), and her brutal enforcer, Lado (Del Toro), underestimate the unbreakable bond among these three friends, Ben and Chon—with the reluctant, slippery assistance of a dirty DEA agent (Travolta)—wage a seemingly unwinnable war against the cartel. And so begins a series of increasingly vicious ploys and maneuvers in a high stakes, savage battle of wills.
Savages (2012) | Review
If You Only Lived for One Thing...
Although the movie begins with Ben coming back from philanthropic travels, as Chon bluntly tells him, in this world, "You don't change the world; it changes you." And we see that with almost every character in Savages as, robbed of what they love and faced with the brutality of a world that seems bent on destroying everything they value, they abandon all moral and ethical values to win it back, defend it, or exact vengeance for what they have lost.
As O also tells us early in the movie, "Dope's supposed to be bad. But in a bad, bad world, it's good." But in both their pot-fueled romantic scenes and some of the movie's final scenes, we see a fantasy that feels like just that, a fantastic and fleeting escape that can only last so long and will fade away as quickly and abruptly as any chemically induced high out there.
(As even drug kingpin Elena is quick to tell O when she tells her she has been smoking dope since she was a young teen, it's no wonder she has trouble just plain existing in the real world.)
As Elena also points out, as much as Ben, Chon, and O may tells us they love each other and that that is all they need, there is just something wrong with what they have. And while the idea of having two people instead of just one to fill the holes in their hearts and soothe the scars on their souls, like dope, their relationship comes off as little more than a high they depend on far too much for one that will ultimately let them down.
As willing as Elena is to kill and torture anyone who wrongs her, she is also just as quick to recognize that the way she lives isn't a path she would ever want anyone following her down. As she tells O, "My daughter, she's ashamed of me. And I'm proud of her."
And in the end, while Savages may not be a movie that takes itself and its violence seriously enough to gut punch you into seeing the horrors of our world and vowing to do something about them on a global scale, in its own way, it is a movie that challenges the more personal ways in which we deal with the bad things of this world in the way we live on a daily basis.
It asks us what the one thing is that we value or consider when making our decisions. And it challenges us to ponder whether the pursuit of that one thing is one which has turned us into a better person or a worse one, filled our live with more trust, love, and hope, or instead with more distrust, hatred, and hopelessness.
It asks us what would happen if that one thing was taken from us. It pushes us to see that even those things which we consider to be most pure, solid, and valuable in our life may one day let us down. And it asks us whether we know any other way to deal with loss and pain and brutality besides the pursuit of temporary highs and escape.
And while Savages sadly offers few answers to those questions, what it does leave you feeling is that there has to be something more, something better, something stronger than even the most destructive forces of this world, a hope more enduring than a chemically induced high or an exotic escape, and a love so pure and free of selfishness that rather than being distorted by the evils of that surround it, it transforms the world around it instead
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