Monday, February 25, 2013

Savage gardening

Oliver Stones’ “Savages” isn’t as visually trippy as many of his previous films, but this crime drama is nonetheless tangy and twisted. Starring a couple of acting luminaries and a newer generation of it-things, “Savages” is a messy and messed-up voyage into the dark corners of the illegal drug trade, shocking with its gruesome illustrations of human savagery.
Two young drug-dealing entrepreneurs, Ben and Chon (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch), are pitted against a Mexican drug cartel that has taken their perpetually drugged-up lover Ophelia (Blake Lively) hostage. Led by the unforgiving widow Elena (Salma Hayek), the cartel has taken control of Ben and Chon’s business. But the best buddies are far from beaten, and are plotting to rescue their captive girlfriend.

“Savages” manages to create a likeable rapport between the main trio of Johnson, Kitsch and Lively; their unusual arrangement comes off as tender and real, and not sordid or scandalous, so it gets especially tense early on when their weed-growing characters go through an assortment of challenges. Embodying their terrors is the hateful henchman Lado, coruscatingly portrayed by Benicio Del Toro.

Discomfiting mainly because of violent imagery, “Savages” doesn’t scrimp on disturbing quandaries. The characters experience momentous turning points; most of them don’t go through the “war” unscathed or undamaged. It’s infuriating there’s no comeuppance for a certain character that obviously deserves it.

But the film isn’t conventional to begin with, and it leaves its viewers with a surfeit of mixed emotions. Its dreamy and breezy parts are pyrrhic, easily overwhelmed by a lingering, nightmarish haze. Talk about being Stoned.

“Savages” is an Ayala Cinemas exclusive. 

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