Friday, July 27, 2012

Savages - 3 1/2 stars

Savages is the best movie Oliver Stone has directed since Any Given Sunday.  It's a very refreshing return to form after misfires like W. and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.  It's also the first movie of the summer to star Taylor Kitsch and not suck.  He is now 1 for 3 (Battleship and John Carter, in case you were going to ask).

Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) star as Chon and Ben, the most successful marijuana growers in southern California.  They share a hot girlfriend named O (Blake Lively) and the 3 are living in paradise.  Life is perfect.  Then a Mexican drug cartel led by Elena (Salma Hayek) asks them to join forces.  The guys resist, so the cartel kidnaps O and holds her ransom.  If the guys want her back, they have to work with the cartel for a year.

This movie is great.  I was never bored and the movie was full of surprises.  After the setup, I thought that the guys would go in to rescue O and it would be a big action climax at the cartel's headquarters.  I was picturing something like the end of Bad Boys 2.  This would make sense since Chon is ex-military and he has a bunch of Navy SEAL friends. 

But no, this is a different kind of movie.  They guys deal with a crooked DEA officer (John Travolta) and the cartel's sadistic enforcer (Benicio del Toro, who steals the movie).  They go along with Elena's demands while trying to double cross them at the same time.  While all that is going on, O is forming a kind of mother daughter relationship with her captor, Elena.  Elena's own daughter wants nothing to do with her, and she seems to view O as almost a surrogate daughter.

There is some good action in this movie, but more importantly these are interesting, smart characters who we really empathize with.  And there is a lot of humor in the movie.  I really enjoyed it.

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