Director: Oliver Stone
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 2.5/10
The biggest problem with Oliver Stone’s Savages, is that it wants to be a mediocre film so bad, but just can’t bring itself to be anything more than a frustrating mess. There are glimpses of something unique here, but they are constantly washed away by the never-ending flow of sludge this film pours on us.
Based on a novel by Dan Winslow, Savages tells the story of two California marijuana growers, played by Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson, and their mutual lover, played by Blake Lively. When a Mexican cartel kidnaps the girl, it’s up to the two friends and their rag-tag group of highly skilled soldiers, hackers, and Emil Hersch, to save her.
The first problem one notices with Savages, is the horrible voice-over work from Blake Lively. The repeated exposition about who people are, and what’s going on is convoluted and unnecessary. She introduces characters who are not only insignificant to the plot, but some don’t even have more than two lines in the film. Assuming that the novel was probably written from the perspective of Blake Lively’s character, it doesn’t translate well to the film and makes it feel like sloppy storytelling.
On the topic of the storytelling, while the plot did have a few interesting concepts and several well-shot action sequences, there was a general lack of tonal consistency throughout the film. The movie ranges from slightly upbeat and comedic, to bouts of extreme and disturbing violence.
Oliver Stone carries us through these shifting tones with relative ease. Although I did have a few gripes regarding the film inexplicably turning to black and white during several scenes, as a whole, everything looked pretty good.
One of the worst, and completely inexcusable aspects of Savages is it’s ending. I have not read the novel, so I’m unaware if it’s the same, but to put it bluntly, the ending is shit. In fact, it’s one of the laziest, and most infuriating endings I’ve seen in recent memory. By pandering to both cinephiles and general audiences, it manages to insult both parties, and is easily the worst thing about an already dismal film.
Now, it may be said that a lot of the issues with the film actually lie in the book itself. Even if that’s the case, there’s no excuse for poor filmmaking. Oliver Stone is a veteran, who has directed some of the greatest films of all time, and that doesn’t show in Savages. If the source material isn’t translating, it needs to be changed or not made at all.
Unfortunately, Savages proves to be yet another misstep for Oliver Stone. While the bloated two-hour and nine-minute film did provide some entertainment, overall, it was a complete train wreck, and adds another notch of disappointment for this summer’s lineup.