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Capone goes a little wild for Oliver Stone's return to chaos with SAVAGES!!!

Published at: July 7, 2012, 1:26 a.m. CST

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

In many ways the new Oliver Stone-directed SAVAGES is a throwback, both into Stone's past and to a type of film that at once glorifies and horrifies the drug-dealer lifestyle. Your must remember that Stone not only directed such works as PLATOON, WALL STREET, BORN OF THE FOURTH OF JULY, and JFK, but he also wrote SCARFACE and followed that us with directing turns on NATURAL BORN KILLERS and U-TURN. It's all coming back to you now, isn't it? With a screenplay credited to Stone, Shane Salerno and Don Winslow (based on his novel), SAVAGES at its worst is aping those latter Stone works, but at its best it offers a twisting and turning, depraved and dirty experience that is not often predictable and very often a whole lot of fucked-up fun.

At the heart of the film are three people, all in love with each other. Our narrator is "O" (Blake Lively), a pretty woman with a free-love spirit but a taste for expensive things. She's living with two drug-dealing partners, Ben (KICK-ASS' Aaron Johnson), who came up with the strain of marijuana they sell but also uses a portion of their earnings for charitable purposes; he's a lover not a fighter. Then there's Chon (Taylor Kitsch of JOHN CARTER and BATTLESHIP fame), a former Afghanistan vet, who still has a paranoid mind and a violent temper. He's in charge of security, and he's an aggressive lover compared to Ben. Yes, O is sleeping with both of them (sometimes at once), and everybody's cool like that.

I'll admit, in the beginning of this film, I was quickly losing interest because I don't tolerate hippie behavior for more than 30 seconds. But then come the Mexicans (under the command of Elena, played with quiet ferocity by Salma Hayek) and their hyper-violent cartels. Benicio Del Toro is in rare form as the so-despicable-you-love-him enforcer Lado. His methods are unspeakable, and he excels at cruelty. But it's Alex (last year's Oscar nominee Demián Bichir) who Elena calls on to negotiate with Ben and Chon about taking over their business and expanding their market. Ben and Chon want to get out of the business, take the money, and retire in style. But the cartel wants them to stay on for three years to train its employees in the ways of growing premium shit. Also drifting in and out of the crevices and playing every side of the game is DEA agent Dennis (John Travolta, who screams a lot). And keep an eye out for Emile Hirsch as Ben and Chon's combination accountant and resident hacker.

When the boys balk at the first offer from Alex, Elena does not take kindly to people turning down reasonable offers, so she has Lado kidnap O and sets up a type of pay/release plan. Since O is the one thing these two knuckleheads love, they devise a plan to get her back while knocking the cartel down a peg or two. SAVAGES succeeds in giving out bloody battles, deviant behavior, double crosses and sometimes surreal visuals that remind me of the loopy use of different film stock that used to be Stone's trademark (like it or not). Here, it tends to work, and above all other things, I think Stone is having some amount of fun making this movie, and I certainly had fun watching where he took it.

Not everything works. Lively's constant narration is a bit irritating, and her acting isn't much better, although I think it was more the character than her performance that grated my nerves. Johnson does a great job as the more passive partner in the business whose violent side is drawn out and used to great effect as the film goes on. Kitsch may have finally found his strong suit as the tightly wound Chon, who just happens to have a small army for former military buddies at his disposal for some of the pair's most elaborate missions against he cartel.

By the end of the film, it becomes more and more difficult to figure out who's lying to whom, who wants to kill what, and what day of the week it is. But most of the details are insignificant as Stone turns up the weird factor by floating Mexican Day of the Dead images before our eyes and floods trippy music into our ears. I'm not saying he abandons the plot entirely (he doesn't), but there are times when stylistic flare seems to be battling for our attention. But that's no unusual in film by Oliver Stone, a filmmaker I happen to adore, even when he's failing or flailing. With SAVAGES, it's nice to see a master back at work and tapping into a lunatic energy that he used to employ far more often, and as a result, he took more chances. This film feels like something of a risk, and more often than not, it pays off richly.

-- Steve Prokopy
"Capone"
capone@aintitcool.com
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Readers Talkback

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  • July 7, 2012, 1:39 a.m. CST

    CAPONE VS HIPPIES

    by IAmTommyWiseau

    The next movie by Barry Sonnenfeld. Tagline: "He don't tolerate hippie behavior!"

  • July 7, 2012, 2:37 a.m. CST

    finally found his strong suit

    by jsfithaca

    he already found it in friday night lights. idk who the moron was who cast him in john carter and battleship. 1 episode of FNL and you can tell hes not meant to play the hero

  • July 7, 2012, 2:44 a.m. CST

    Oh may the Yodinsleep end and bring us again days of two women upon one man

    by Balkin Flabgurter

    and shun the century where two men share plumbing, even in the midst of the golden gulag have i not seen sexual insolence. Oliver stone yee love men on male action, and fair Vingid'ur has no patience for these things, unfortunately i will be seeing KING CONAN 2015XXXXXX

  • July 7, 2012, 3:32 a.m. CST

    Savages is a fun movie! Perfect? Oh Hell no, but fun!

    by Stereotypical Evil Archer

    Ladies and gentlemen, Benicio Del Toro. And Salma Hayek's wonderful although contained chest. Damn she looked good. Blake who?

  • July 7, 2012, 4:13 a.m. CST

    Saw it tonight in Hollywood to a packed theater.

    by Pixelsmack

    It was good. Uncomfortable laughter at things we maybe shouldn't be laughing at. A plausible plot. Plenty of bang-bang. (both varieties) Go see it.

  • July 7, 2012, 8:06 a.m. CST

    Do we see Blakes private parts???

    by Mr Soze

    I so do like to see private parts.

  • July 7, 2012, 8:14 a.m. CST

    FUCK ALL HATERS

    by cornponious

    I thought Kitsch was great in JCoM.

  • July 7, 2012, 8:17 a.m. CST

    Book is a solid read

    by I am_NOTREAL

    Winslow's style wore on me at certain points, but overall the rhythm and pace of the story kept me into it. Stone is a great director, never boring--with the odd exception of Wall Street 2, which I found deathly dull. But this could be an inspired union of director and subject matter and I want to see it.

  • July 7, 2012, 10:05 a.m. CST

    Capone vs. Proofreading

    by Garbageman33

    Capone wins again!

  • July 7, 2012, 12:14 p.m. CST

    Capone, re: hippies

    by Denty420

    Perhaps you'd like to explain to me why it is that every major battle in history has been won by the side with the shortest haircut? Think about it! Why did the US cavalry beat the Indian nation? Short back and sides versus girly-hippie locks. The Cavaliers and the Roundheads, 1-0 to the pudding-basins. Vietnam, crew-cuts both sides, no score draw.

  • The book was great. Way to fuck it up, hack.

  • July 7, 2012, 1:01 p.m. CST

    Only 53% on Rotten Tomatoes. That does not bode well.

    by Doctor_Nefario

  • July 7, 2012, 2:49 p.m. CST

    I should have waited for DVD!

    by Shaun1138

    I just got back from seeing this film. The acting was good, and the film looked great. BUT I am glad I only paid matinee prices. I should have waited for dvd.

  • July 7, 2012, 6:24 p.m. CST

    I was in love with it until

    by CherryValance

    you know what. But it was still mostly awesome. I think if it had ended 10 minutes earlier it might have made my all-time list of favorites.

  • July 7, 2012, 6:35 p.m. CST

    Cherry, I'm with you

    by DukeTogo84

    I loved this film until the cop out at the very end. Wouldn't have been my favorite movie of the year otherwise.

  • July 7, 2012, 8:47 p.m. CST

    Fathergeek takes an enjoyable hit of Stone's "SAVAGES"

    by fathergeek

    Caught "SAVAGES," writer/director Oliver Stone's latest, this afternoon. Found the double deal'n drug crime thriller pretty damn entertaining. Especially enjoyed several of the supporting roles. Benicio Del Toro's cartel enforcer "Lado" stole the screen every time he appeared, which was often. John Travolta noticeably not play'n himself as DEA sub-chief "Dennis" gave a welcomed performance. Salma Hayek was ever lovely, buuut totally venomous as a ruthless cartel head, and rival cartel leader "El Azul" was played to perfection by one of my fave Mexican actors Joaquin Coslo. You may know him from his multi award winning role in 2010's Fantastic Fest hit "El Narco," or the 2011's Fest audience pleaser "Saving Private Perez." Also he was the corrupt general in that "BOND" flick a while back. The cartels' hits? Welllll to do them the justice such well publicized horrific events demand they brought in Greg Nicotero and his crew from KNB to keep the gore standards high. Yeah, Father Geek had a great afternoon, in fact I seriously thought about sitting through it all a second time as the end credits rolled.

  • July 7, 2012, 9:58 p.m. CST

    Stupid Old People...

    by robg113

    I loved Savages...however, for some reason the theater I went to was full of old couples...and one of those couples decided to leave after {SPOILER ALERT} O's first ending of the story...as they all took their shots and laid there dying, the old couple left and never saw the real ending of the film. I thought everything played out well, and for once the trailers didn't spoil anything.

  • July 7, 2012, 11:04 p.m. CST

    Do yourself a favor...

    by Terry

    ...and just leave the theater after the film ends the first time. Didn't really need the second ending. Other than that, solid movie.

  • July 8, 2012, 10:09 a.m. CST

    Stone's Lack of Balls

    by Guy Steele

    OMG, Did Stone really Scewed-up a great Novel!!! Of all the big serious directors around you would think Stone would be the one to have 'BALLS'! But no he is a EUNUCH here! Go Figure! Sure Del Toro, Travolta and Hayek have grand fun. They are great to watch in action though I would have liked a little more form Demian Bichir, a very fine actor as well. Here he has really one grand scene early on. Now the three leads or ok. The narration wasn't needed and whew, that ending... or endings. Sweet G, why make this movie and let that happen? Part-n-Part of what made Winslow's novel so Hip, Smart, Now and Great, was his unflinching story telling. Sure its Funny, Hip and Cool but its also very Brutal, Cruel and unrelenting and its finish is a real bloody, tear soaked mess of 'Real World' sadness. That Winslow had a hand in the screenplay bothers me, but perhaps his hand was part-in-part to what made those scenes with Del Toro sparkle and hum. I would almost go out on the limb here and say that Del Toro should at least be considered a 'Best Supporting Actor' nod for this. He wouldn't win, but his performance is out-of-the-park. And speaking of out-of-the-park... how about that one weird thing during the terrible ending... that strange visual reference to 'Traffic' and Del Toro, that was strange and slightly unsettling.

  • July 8, 2012, 9:41 p.m. CST

    I liked this movie, but the two guys were stupid!

    by Russman

    The deal that Salma (and wow, did she look good) offered them was pretty damn good. The two dudes seemed very unreasonable to decline.

  • July 9, 2012, 8:42 a.m. CST

    The ending...

    by Steve

    so lame. What a cheap cop out. And I think Blake Lively was in like 5+ sex scenes fully clothed. R rated violence. PG sex. Weird. Del Toro was awesome. His hair should get an award.

  • July 9, 2012, 10:40 a.m. CST

    Somebody explain Blake Lively to me

    by Garbageman33

    She's not a good actress. She's attractive, but not a knockout. And she won't take her clothes off in a role that clearly requires her to take her clothes off. So, why cast her?

  • July 9, 2012, 11:30 a.m. CST

    Saw it last night...

    by jackofhearts29

    I liked it. It's growing on me a bit. I think the ending really worked in a way.. although I will stay away from spoilers. I think it was through directorial/creative choice that the Americans were so bland while the Mexicans were over-the-top campy. It kind of felt to me like a riff on that whole "Traffic" dualism, taken to a lurid extreme for the sake of the symbolism. All in all, as good as JFK/Any Given Sunday.. not up to Platoon or Natural Born Killers territory. Better than the Doors or Nixon though.. haha.