Savages: It Started Here in Paradise (2012)

Posted: December 27, 2012 in Crime, Drama, Thriller

savages-posterWhile many would see their relationship as complicated, Chon, Ben and Ophelia ‘O’ see it as the perfect union. After college and a tour of duty, the three friends decide to pursue a career in growing and selling cannabis after they discover a blend that becomes a mega hit. Their business seems to be going well until they are contacted by Lado, an enforcer for the Mexican drug cartel, threatening them to meet about their product. While the meeting is seemingly harmless, they realize that they are not safe and try to gather their resources to go into hiding. Before getting a chance to leave, O is picked up by representatives of a devious drug lord, Elena, who wants to take a combination of their profits and the market dominated by their product. Determined to rescue their girl, Chon and Ben set out on a mission to gather the money needed to get her released while knowing that things may not go down so calmly.

Starring: Blake Lively (Ophelia), Taylor Kitsch (Chon), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Ben), Benicio Del Toro (Lado), Shea Whigham (Chad), Joaquin Cosio (El Azul), John Travolta (Dennis), Demian Bichir (Alex), Antonio Jaramillo (Jamie), Selma Hayek (Elena), Emile Hirsch (Spin), Joel David Moore (Craig), Mia Maestro (Dolores/Lado’s wife)

Attempting to recover from the disasters that were Battleship and John Carter, Taylor Kitsch uses his brooding personality to his advantage to balance out the more laid back personality of Aaron Taylor-Johnson. This pairing actually works well for the way the story is told, and adding in the alluring Blake Lively promotes the paradise-like setup to the film. Selma Hayek is the most intriguing character of the film as she is a bit of a contradiction. She appears to be a ruthless drug lord, but she treat Lively with a little bit of grace and appears to be caught up in how her daughter see her choices. John Travolta is a bit forgettable as he does not really add to much of the excitement of the story.

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Oliver Stone is known for some rather impressive films and this one projects its own sense of intrigue with a nontraditional relationship and an unlikely drug lord. While drug culture does project a slightly different set of social rules, O seemed to be able to love both of her men equally and they both seemed okay with the relationship as well. The run-in with the Mexican cartel caused O to get plucked from her cushy life and forced both Chon and Ben into a mission of rescue that would test their boundaries. While Chon was not new to violent activities, Ben had been able to work behind the scenes before having to join him attempting to steal the necessary money from criminals. Ben was able to develop the necessary strength to take on the cartel, but they needed a new plan to succeed at rescuing O. Having Dennis in their back pocket helped, but they needed to exploit Elena’s weakness in order to have any hope of seeing O anytime soon.

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The story has a few interesting twists and turns but the most significant storyline is that of O’s survival. When she was captured by the cartel, she was locked away and unaware that Elena was the actual leader of the group. With no resources or understanding of how to handle the situation, she basically had to wait it out while also dealing with withdrawal after separation from her usual access to drugs. Stone finishes up the story with two endings: the dramatic one and the actual one. In the dramatic one, he tries to represent the possible ending considering O’s comment at the beginning of the film that she may not actually be alive at the end of the story. The second one highlights how the final meeting goes down and how each of the three friends are affected by the outcome. In particular, O has to adapt to the consequences of living in a dangerous lifestyle.

The film has some memorable characters but also some forgettable parts of the story. While the overall epic of this drug battle is entertaining, there is something about the end result that feel a little lacking in the combination of the character development and the eventual outcome.

Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5


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