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:: Savages

The old adage warns that while you may be able to make a bad film out of a good script, you cannot make a good film out of a bad script. Oliver Stone’s Savages is an example of the latter.

Belly-flopping into Stone’s youthful fantasy, we are introduced to Laguna Beach drug dealers Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch). Like chalk and cheese, Ben is a peaceful beach-hippy while his best friend, Chon, is a cold, ex-marine killing machine. Their ideologies are polar opposites and the only things they do share is a love of marijuana and the frustratingly naive Ophelia (Blake Lively) - and yes they share her sexually; it’s all love, after all. The friends pride themselves on growing some of the best hooch in the world. Their reputation is strong, spreading all the way to Mexico where, inevitably, the Baja Cartel decide they want in, and they aren't going to take no for an answer.

As I have already alluded to, the major problem with the film is the script. The premise is stale and boring, the only aspect exciting the dullest pang of interest is the polygamy concept, however the potential for conflict goes completely wasted. Besides one line where Salma Hayek’s character questions the equality of the boys’ love for Ophelia, almost instantly resolved and dismissed in a following scene, Stone chooses to focus exclusively on the bromance of Chon and Ben which is innately flawed by the sheer unbelievability of their friendship.

Of course this is not helped by the dialogue, notably Ben and Ophelia’s. Rife with nonsensical, new-age, Californian-hippy logic, the dialogue only breeds dislike for the main characters, further nurtured by the film’s complete dislocation from any dramatic continuity. It’s hard not to be insulted when Ben, on the verge of tears at the prospect of lying to the Baja Cartel in one scene, can then stare them dead in the eyes and convincingly bullshit them without so much as a rise in heart rate in the next. Stone was really pushing his luck when he thought he could pass this off as credible cinema. Similarly the excessive violence comes across as a disastrous and dramatically unjustified attempt to be cool. It not so much as feeds off and heightens the drama as divorces itself from it. The only real violence committed here is against the medium of cinema.

Not surprisingly at 131 minutes, the film drags and yet we are treated to a “rewind” ending. Stylistically jarring, this unannounced post-modern miscarriage represents itself as arrogant and forced. Lively’s narration really only seems present to “explain” this narrative spin-back but retrospectively it proves itself a cautionary prelude to the laziness of the rest of the film. Really the only two decent things about Savages are Benicio Del Toro and John Travolta, mercifully given a taut, tense scene together, but it is hardly enough to exonerate the rest of the cinematic sin.

Three time Oscar winner Oliver Stone, the director of Wall Street, Platoon and Natural Born Killers, has proven himself capable of delivering intelligent, relevant, exciting and edgy cinema. With his recent effort Savages, Stone shows he is more than equipped to produce utter excrement as well - utter, utter excrement in the harshest, foulest sense of the word. Avoid.