Friday, 3 August 2012

SAVAGES - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Oliver Stone's Worst Movie. And I love Oliver Stone. Even "Alexander". But this lame crime picture feels phoned in.

Savages (2012) dir. Oliver Stone

Starring: Taylor Kitsh, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Demián Bichir, Emile Hirsch,


Review By Greg Klymkiw

People crap on Oliver Stone all the time. I don't. I generally love his work. He's audacious, highly skilled and occasionally, with movies like Natural Born Killers, he delivers the goods and then some. Of late, however, he's been hitting rock bottom. Some might cite Alexander as the beginning of his nose dive. Not this fella. It's over the top and entertaining in all the right ways and is chock full of great battle scenes and Colin Farrell looks divine in blue eyeliner. The picture is worthy of any 50s technicolor historical epic.

For me, the losing streak began with the inconsequential W., the muted biopic of President George W. Bush that squandered all of its potential and on-screen talent by presenting a curiously "balanced" portrait of the biggest idiot to ruin his country (and by extension, the rest of the world) since Hitler. Granted, the expectation was for Stone to vilify Bush in some fashion, and that would have been the easiest thing to do. I'm at least grateful he didn't take the easy road, BUT the route he did choose - to (ahem) understand Bush sapped the movie of any power it might have had.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was the completely unnecessary sequel to Stone's fun 1987 hit that delivered an Oscar to Michael Douglas for his clammy, zesty portrayal of Wall Street broker Gordon "Greed is Good" Gekko. Even Stone's original fell on its face in its final third - after spending a bit over an hour showing us how cool it was to be a thief in fancy clothes, the movie descended into a kind of dour dose of morality. The sequel, isn't even fun. Just boring. And worse than taking a moralistic turn, Gordon Gekko seeks redemption. Ugh.

Savages, on the surface, feels like it's going to be a return to form for Stone - not unlike his 1997 bauble of amoral pulpy depravity U-Turn, a modest but crackling crime melodrama with a supremely entertaining mean streak a few miles long, a host of terrific characters (and performances) plus a solid script infused with great dialogue.

Unfortunately, Stone's new movie feels phoned-in with bland characters, a leaden pace and a predictable, by-the-numbers plot. Providing a less-than-zero narration is the atonal Blake Lively as the hippie chick annoyingly named - I kid you not - "O". She's the coffee table centrepiece in a groovy menage with her dope dealing boyfriends Ben (Johnson) and the equally annoyingly monikered Chon (Kitsch).

These guys make wicked dope, live the high life in their California dream house and boink the beautiful, but vapid O. When a Mexican drug cartel run by Latina she-bitch Elena (Hayek) seeks to muscle-in on their action, their dream comes crashing to a halt when O is kidnapped by the baddies and held hostage until they do the deal.

Ben's the brains of the operation, but Chon's the brawn. Being a former Special-Op, he's got a limitless supply of mercenary tough guys as buddies so we know there won't be too much trouble getting her back. Even worse than the lack of any real suspense is the sickening subplot involving Elena's estranged relationship with her own daughter and how she begins to take a shine to her kidnap victim O. She's just a normal Mom looking for the daughter she once had.

With a trio of bland leaders and a clutch of over-the-top villains, there's little to keep our interest. I have no problem with the heroes being dope dealers who are simply trying to protect their turf - my problem is that they're such dull, hippy-dippy and ultimately, empty dope dealers. And while the villains all chew the scenery, none of them feel like they're especially having any fun doing it.

The movie is a misfire from beginning to end. All it has going for it is the violence which, I'll admit is staged with Stone's classical style and efficiency, but because there's virtually nothing in the movie that's remotely engaging, even the well-staged carnage feels like a waste.

I suppose that strictly on this level, that being the dispensing of blood-letting, Savages could be enjoyed the same way pornography is also enjoyed, but porn, save for those who need to masturbate to something, is usually pretty dull.

As is Savages.