It is now 2012 and Natural Born Killers director Oliver Stone is still trying to re-find his footing. Savages is the latest brutally graphic film from a director that used to be known for stirring up controversy at the cinemas. His latest outing is mostly hollow shock-factor that rides on its gracious violence and over-use of sex and swearing to attempt to offset the viewer and make it feel as if they’re watching something new and original. Savages is far from either of those descriptors and it’s instead another drug-induced and blood-soaked popcorn affair that rides off of the strength of Benicio Del Toro.
Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson) are two smart men living in California; the pot central of the United States. Their combined strengths come from Chon’s literal physicality and Ben’s smarts, which when combined equals a perfect partnership when it comes to selling drugs to the masses. The two share everything together, including their lady friend O (Blake Lively).
Things seem to be going smoothly for the trio of lovebirds until the Mexican cartel comes knocking on the door, demanding a piece of their profit. The leader (Salma Hayek) makes good use of her muscle and slowly starts to destroy everything Ben and Chon have built until the breaking point is reached, which is when she sicks her dog Lado (Benicio Del Toro) on them to kidnap O. This instantly creates stress on both sides as a full-fledged war begins, leaving lots of bodies, plus a fair deal of money and drugs on the floor.
Savages is Oliver Stone‘s attempt to return to his Natural Born Killers days and the result is less than spectacular or even exploitative. Here he’s mostly mimicking the late Tony Scott; the king of making over-stylized popcorn flicks. Scott at least knew that most of his later films were brainless and fun, but still effective. Stone thinks he’s creating an original on-edge drama with Savages and he couldn’t be further from the truth.
There’s drama, tension and lots and lots of brutality on display here, but not a lick of it is new to the growing genre. Stone makes good use of the editing room with a number of interesting camera angles and filters to help tell this corrupt tale of killing and drug-doing, but not once is there a reason revealed as to why he’s filming through this specific hazy lens, aside from the artificial edgy stamp that he wants placed on the film.
It’s far from edgy. It’s bloated for sure and fun at times, but it never strays too far away from the forgettable camp. Occasionally, supporting player Benicio Del Toro steps up and outshines every single person on screen, but his warm presence is for some odd reason given the backseat, which means we’re forced to sit through Taylor Kitsch‘s monotone dialogue delivery and Aaron Johnson‘s convincing career turn as a tough guy. The two share little chemistry, but what makes matters worse is Blake Lively’s attempt to attach herself to both of these men.
It just doesn’t work and ultimately makes the film’s fighting reason a huge joke. A big one at that and one that Oliver Stone doesn’t seem to shake. The film’s false climax is only more proof that Savages was never planning on amounting to anything more than a copycat production with not a single idea of its own.
The sun-soaked state of California looks beautiful on Blu-Ray. The various filters and post-production effects help give the film lasting life on Blu-Ray, because when it’s all said and done you can still compliment the film on its look, but not so much its story. Detail is exceptional and every single stylistic choice proves to be a good one on this highly successful Blu-Ray transfer.
Action-oriented and dialogue-friendly are two great ways to sum up this lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Savages comes at you with its foot to the floor during all of the extended action sequences. Gun shots and explosions make this one shine, while the lengthy back-and-forth chit chat balances out the film’s softer moments.
Here’s a list of bonus content found in this package:
- Deleted Scenes (HD)
- Feature Commentary with Director Oliver Stone
- Feature Commentary with Producers Eric Kopeloff and Moritz Borman, Co-Screenwriter/Novelist Don Winslow, Executive Producer/Co-Screenwriter Shane Salerno and Production Designer Tomas Voth
- Theatrical & Unrated versions of the film – The additional ten minutes found on the Unrated Cut actually help expand on the characters and enhance the already violent film with more blood and gore.
- DVD Copy
- Digital Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
Savages is graphically violent and brutally over-the-top in how it depicts gang warfare, but it’s also feels like a tamer Oliver Stone trying to reach that violent height he was once at when he did Natural Born Killers. If anyone else had their name attached to this film I’d assume it would be getting a little more praise, but we’ve known Stone for too long and this kind of film should be much better in his hands and not just another summer action flick that mostly went unnoticed.
Benicio Del Toro gives one good reason to watch the film, while the rest of the cast struggles keeping up. Knocking aside, Savages makes for one hell of a Blu-Ray rental, especially for fans of R-rated action that spares no expenses when it comes to showing you all of the blood and gore.
Oliver Stone's Savages is a recycled popcorn flick straight from the 90s. The performances help prove that point, aside from Benicio Del Toro's creepy, yet effective transformation as Lado. The stylized action and heavy editing can't save this one from showing its true heart, which isn't beating and is very ugly.