Savages (R)

Drama 130 July 6th, 2012
By Karina Longworth
"Welcome to the recession, boys," says John Travolta's DEA-double-agent profiteer in Oliver Stone's Savages, a movie of its moment, though both its good guys and bad guys (if there's really even a difference) are unquestionably the 1 percent of their industry—that is, the weed trade. The setting is the 100 miles surrounding the California-Mexico border circa right this minute, with Stone focusing on the human and fiscal politics of California's twin pot economies, one quasi-legal and the other criminal—a split that the film suggests can only last for so long. More than two hours long—and building to two endings, one romantic-tragic and one quasi-ironic and romantic-ludicrous-- Savages is bloated with plot and exposition, much of which is related via the incessant voiceover of Ophelia (Blake Lively), quite literally the voice of the movie, a responsibility the character is too wispy to shoulder. Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson, as California dudes dragged into a turf war with the expansion-minded Mexican cartel, register as blanks on screen. In contrast, Salma Hayek and Benicio del Toro, both sporting apparently intentionally terrible wigs, give big, scenery-chewing performances, earning our interest and empathy even while committing heinous acts. The film's micro-time-capsule approach is interesting, but Stone's indulgence in both above-the-law fantasy and the only-in-Hollywood notion that love trumps business are more potent than any point he's trying to make about our real world.
Oliver Stone Blake Lively, John Travolta, Aaron Johnson, Benicio Del Toro, Emile Hirsch, Salma Hayek, Taylor Kitsch, Demain Bichir Shane Salerno, Don Winslow, Oliver Stone Oliver Stone, Moritz Borman, Eric Kopeloff Universal Pictures

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