At one time, a new Oliver Stone movie came out like a threat. Natural Born Killers used a pulp screenplay to say something incendiary about the callousness of media. Soon after, Stone downgraded with U-Turn. Clearly his heart wasn’t in pulp for pulp’s sake. Savages continues in that vein.
Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch star as Ben and Chon, growers of primo pot in Laguna Beach, California. Ben is laid-back and Zen, while Chon is hardened ex-military. They’re good enough buddies that they share a girlfriend, known as O (Blake Lively). When Ben and Chon refuse to sell their outfit to a larger operation, O is kidnapped.
That’s about it. For 129 minutes. Working from Don Winslow’s novel, Stone’s movie tries to cook up some twists and turns, but they depend on these simplistic characters trying to interact or look as if they care. For example, the movie requires Ben to “man up” for certain scenes, but not for others, and it’s totally arbitrary. The movie very simply turns to vapor when these guys are onscreen.
Thankfully, Stone livens things up with his supporting players. Benicio Del Toro (who licks Lively’s spittle off his face), John Travolta and Salma Hayek add some much-needed insanity, if only momentarily. For his part, Stone occasionally fiddles with the movie’s colors, turning things sun-baked yellow, or tropical fish-tank rainbows, but mostly he’s asleep at the controls.
In his heyday, Stone wrote a truly lunatic drug movie, Scarface, which earned the word “savage.” Savages is more like a snooze.