Sav­ages de­liv­ers a po­tent sto­ry­line

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

LIVER Stone has never made a movie based on an El­more Leonard novel – but his new film, Sav­ages, comes close.

This twisty tale of Amer­i­can in­ge­nu­ity, Mex­i­can drug car­tels, cor­rupt of­fi­cials, ex-mil­i­tary as­sas­sins and a three-way re­la­tion­ship plays like a prod­uct of Leonard’s mind, but is ac­tu­ally based on the best­selling novel by Don Winslow, who co-wrote the script with long­time friend and col­lab­o­ra­tor Shane Salerno (the 2000 Shaft re­make, and 2007’s AVPR: Aliens vs Preda­tor – Re­quiem) and Stone.

Sav­ages is the fren­zied story of long­time best friends Chon (Tay­lor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron John­son), who run a suc­cess­ful South­ern Cal­i­for­nia op­er­a­tion sell­ing a po­tent strain of marijuana.

Ben is the brains of the busi­ness, a surf-lov­ing hip­pie who wants to change the world, and spends his money and time do­ing just that in im­pov­er­ished coun­tries.

Chon is the mus­cle, a war vet­eran who lost his in­no­cence and soul in Iraq and now only wants to pro­tect Ben from out­siders as well as his own naivete.

O, short for Ophe­lia (Blake Lively), is the beau­ti­ful Cal­i­for­nia beach blonde they will­ingly share.

Life was bliss­ful for the trio un­til the leader of the rul­ing Mex­i­can drug car­tel, Elena (Salma Hayek), wants to part­ner with Ben and Chon. They re­ject her of­fer and she sends her en­forcer, Lado (Beni­cio Del Toro), to change their minds by kid­nap­ping and threat­en­ing to tor­ture and kill O. With the help of a crooked DEA agent (John Tra­volta), the best friends wage a bloody war against Elena that yields sev­eral clever reve­la­tions.

John­son and Kitsch are be­liev­able as the yin-yang of O’s life.

In a sur­pris­ingly deep role for Lively ( Gos­sip Girl, The Green Lan­tern), O’s char­ac­ter pen­du­lum swings be­tween pam­pered rich girl and cun­ning sur­vival­ist.

Del Toro is mes­meris­ing as the de­vi­ous car­tel hatchet man with a gift for self-sur­vival, while Hayek gives nu­ance to the at­trac­tive and ruth­less leader who once upon a time sac­ri­ficed her role as a lov­ing mother to re­place her mur­dered hus­band as head of the car­tel and to pro­tect their chil­dren from the same fate.

Elena is drawn to O, who re­minds her of her own daugh­ter, who de­spises her for what she has be­come.

There’s lit­tle gra­tu­itous about Sav­ages, as Stone shows con­sid­er­able re­straint in stag­ing the vi­o­lence and blood and, in­stead, con­cen­trates on build­ing a film that is less stylish, but bet­ter ex­e­cuted and with a more sub­tle mes­sage.

Stripped of the pre­tense and heavy-handed moral­is­ing that dogged W. and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Sav­ages rep­re­sents a mi­nor come­back for the di­rec­tor, who is in need of re­con­nect­ing with au­di­ences and him­self as a film­maker.

opens to­day.

Beni­cio del Toro stars in a re­turn to form for ac­claimed di­rec­tor Oliver Stone.

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