Movie Review: Oliver Stone Is Back in His Element With Savages

After soft-peddling sensationalism (with varying levels of success) in his last three movies, Oliver Stone is back in his element — with a new maturity — in the brutal thriller Savages. The film is impressive. It has a bit of the cinematic whoop-de-doo of his noxious Natural Born Killers, in which serial killers became existential heroes, celebrated for attaining absolute freedom. But the perspective is different: wry but mournful, the savagery never a kick. The senselessness of the carnage gets to you. You think, It doesn’t have to be this way.

It is this way thanks to forces Stone explored in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, in which unfettered capitalism tore families apart. The principal family here is a surrogate one, a ménage à trois consisting of innovative marijuana growers Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and their rich girlfriend, O (Blake Lively), short for Ophelia. (She narrates.) Ben insists he can run his business with minimal violence, using some of the profits to do good works in Africa, trusting to Chon — a knotted-up Iraq war vet — to employ force on the rare occasions it’s called for. It’s a remarkably gentle arrangement. O loves both men, opposites whose spirits can be said (if you’ll forgive the woo-woo) to commingle inside her. But business intrudes — a video via the Internet from the Baja cartel starring a man in a skull mask and seven severed heads: "These guys were stupid. Be smarter." The Mexican cartel wants a piece of the business in return for wider distribution of the dope. The local DEA agent, Dennis (John Travolta) — who takes money from all sides — tells the boys, "Don’t fuck with Wal-Mart. Embrace the change." Read More...


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