July 09, 2012


Move over Citizen Kane. This is the greatest film I have ever seen.

That's how I could have reviewed this movie. But here's how I am really going to review it:

In Savages, two Laguna Beach drug dealers (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) must figure out a way to retrieve their shared girlfriend (Blake Lively), who's been kidnapped by a powerful Mexican druglord (Salma Hayek) because the guys refused to form a business partnership with her. And yes, as the title suggests, they have to resort to some decidedly savage behavior in the process.

I felt slightly rotten for giggling during what appeared to be a reverential experience for some of my fellow movie-goers. (At least, they didn't seem to find Savages as uproariously bad as I did.) It's almost worth the price of admission for this ludicrous action thriller to see Salma Hayek hamming it up as the villain, complete with her magic hair and her sexy Mexicannness. Remember how funny she was as Alec Baldwin's girlfriend on 30 Rock? It's hard to take her seriously now, when she's always got her tongue in her cheek anyway (one hopes). It's kind of like going back and watching Leslie Nielson pre-Airplane, when he was a straight man. All his "serious" work has a new comedic side to it. Watching Salma play the villain makes you think back to those cheap exploitation films from the 70s, where there was always some hot mama running the show, and people would call her "Mommie" or something creepy like that. I'm thinking, perhaps, of Stella Stevens in Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. Or, sometimes, it wasn't a hot mama. Sometimes it was Shelley Winters, like in the first Cleopatra Jones.

At any rate, Savages resembles one of those cheapie action flicks, except it has an Oliver Stone budget, not to mention Oliver Stone's contempt for the audience. The film is based on a novel by Don Winslow, and was adapted by Winslow, Stone, and Shane Salerno. I can only imagine how bad the novel was. There are moments when Blake Lively is narrating the film that all you can do is laugh at how stupid it all sounds. She tells us at the beginning that she might not be alive, this could be just a recording, and reminds us of this later. We're never very worried, though. She's not interesting enough. Right before she gets kidnapped, we see footage of her on a shopping spree at the mall. The bags keep accumulating, and she has this dumb-surfer-girl look on her face. Later, when she's being held in some underground bunker by the druglord, she asks for a hit to help her concentrate. She embodies something that is currently morally offensive: decadence. It's like watching one of those moronic celebrities on a reality television show, oblivious to the problems of the real world. Who could possibly care about this lady? Only the men who sleep with her. She's the middle (wo)man in their quasi-homosexual fantasy. But this movie isn't honest or deep enough to explore what amounts to an incredibly obvious elephant in the room. There's never an acknowledgement of the sexual ambiguity, which is probably the most interesting element of the movie. Savages prefers to numb our minds with its brutality. (The brutality is mitigated, mercifully, by this movie's inability to be taken seriously.) 

Instead, Oliver Stone wants us to witness the transformation of two hot pot-smoking dudes into savage beasts, taking their once carefree girlfriend along with them. They're meant to be elevated in the process, to some kind of mythological status, where they're as free and instinctive as nature itself. It's a whole lot of BS, the same brand of BS that Stone peddles in every one of his movies.


What's most offensive is that the ending is deliberately deceitful to the audience. They actually pull the "this is how it could have happened" line, showing us one monumentally nihilistic ending, and then backing out of it with mind-numbing laziness, in favor of an easy, cop-out of an ending. The first ending wasn't real, just an imagined scenario in the girl's mind. (I remember seeing an Italian splatter film where at the very end, the hero woke up from the movie, which, we're informed, was a nightmare. Then, as he rolled out of bed and the film came to an end, a caption at the bottom of the screen read, "The nightmare became reality.")


I guarantee a lot of unintended laughs at this movie's expense, and there are parts of it that are entertaining (it's not a boring film, exactly, although it takes far too long to get to its obvious conclusion), but if you were groaning during the trailer, I can promise you that Savages the movie will not exceed your expectations, if you have any standards about movies.

With John Travolta as a snitching FBI agent, and Benicio Del Toro as one of Salma's right hand men.


Melanie said...

Nothing brings a war veteran and a do-gooder hippie together like some delicious dank.

pannedreview said...

Indeed. His name was Chon! I had forgotten that. Is that supposed to be a variation of "Sean"? I'm so confused.