Ironic, Amoral Romanticism
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively,
Aaron Johnson, Salma Hayek,
Benicio Del Toro, John
Runtime: 130 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures/Comcast
Director: Oliver Stone
Writer: Oliver Stone, Don Winslow,
Address Comments To:Brian L. Roberts, Chairman/CEO/President, Comcast Corp.
Stephen Burke, CEO, NBC Universal
Ron Meyer, President/COO, Universal Studios
Adam Fogelson, Chairman, Universal Pictures
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608-1085
Phone: (818) 777-1000
Web Page: www.universalstudios.com
The movie begins with the girl, named Ophelia or “O” for short, saying that, just because she’s narrating the story, it doesn’t mean she’s alive at the end of it. O goes on to describe her idyllic life with Chon and Ben, two young Americans who run a very successful high-end, illegal marijuana business. Chon and his buddies fresh from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are the enforcers, and Ben is the business and agricultural genius behind their success. In the first 20 minutes, the movie shows O is having a torrid affair with both Ben and Chon.
Chon and Ben get a disturbing video over the Internet of two of their American business partners getting killed and decapitated by a vicious drug gang from Mexico. Running the gang is a hardened but beautiful woman named Elena Lorena Sanchez. Elena took over the business from her assassinated husband and her son after her two twin sons were also killed. Elena’s daughter, Magdalena, lives in the States and wants nothing to do with her evil mother. Elena has her own enforcer, a mustachioed gent named Lado.
Elena’s lawyer offers Chon and Ben a three-year partnership, if they will teach her gang how to make and distribute the powerful brand of pot the two young men have cultivated from Afghanistan. Chon advises Ben to just kill Elena’s men or they will eventually kill him. Ben refuses, however. He also refuses Elena’s partnership offer, explaining that Chon and he actually would like to get out of the drug business, sooner rather than later.
Elena is extremely angry about Ben’s decision. She orders Lado to kidnap Ophelia and hold her for ransom for one year to make Ben and Chon comply with the three-year deal. The two men start complying, but they have a strong suspicion that, once Ophelia is released and Elena’s gang has the information on how to make Ben’s special marijuana, their lives won’t be worth anything. Chon and Ben hatch a risky scheme to get Ophelia back and save their lives.
For the most part, SAVAGES is very well made. It holds your interest, even though it’s a movie about a war between two drug gangs. One of the more interesting aspects about the movie is that it shows how Chon and especially Ben are drawn into the vicious world of the Mexican drug cartel. At one point, for example, Elena forces Ben to set on fire someone she thinks betrayed her, even though it was really Chon and Ben who falsified the evidence against the man. The movie’s ending, however, appears to drop this theme. Essentially, the ending says that Ben and Chon can go back to their idyllic lifestyle with Ophelia as if nothing happened, even after some of the terrible things that their conflict with Elena’s gang has required them to do. Of course, perhaps that’s part of the irony of the ending.
The average moviegoer may not get that deeply into SAVAGES to see this problem. They might, however, agree with MOVIEGUIDE® that the movie goes on a bit too long. This was the same problem with another drug movie Oliver Stone helped make, 1983’s SCARFACE (Stone wrote the screenplay for the 170-minute SCARFACE, which was a modern remake of a famous 1932 gangster movie, which came in at a crisp 93 minutes). SAVAGES runs for 130 minutes.
These aesthetic concerns are minor problems, whether they are accurate or not. A bigger problem is that the script contains abundant foul language. This shows a lack of creativity on the part of Stone and his fellow screenwriters. SAVAGES also has strong sexual content and brief nudity. Another big problem is that it makes smoking marijuana look fun and glamorous, especially if you have a nice beach house funded by illicit drug deals. If you want to know why too many Americans seem dumber, more lazy, and more narcissistic and hedonistic than in the past, MOVIEGUIDE® suggests you look at the country’s nonsensical “de-criminalization” of marijuana. Finally, amid all this hedonistic, pagan behavior, SAVAGES shows only one of its criminals being punished. The ending also favors a Romantic view of the world. In the movie’s version of Romanticism, getting away from society and living a simple beachcomber’s lifestyle, with abundant free sex from a good-looking partner (or two or more if you’re so inclined), is desirable and attainable. In this world, there are no consequences to your actions, especially if you play your cards right.
Ultimately, the ending to SAVAGES comes across as fairly ironic and lightly comical than heavily dramatic, but, that doesn’t, and cannot, totally excuse its apparent amorality and immorality. Therefore, MOVIEGUIDE® must judge Oliver Stone’s latest foray into the world of illegal drug trafficking to be philosophically and morally unacceptable.
SAVAGES holds one’s interest, even though it’s about two drug gangs, one a bit more evil than the other. It’s a little too long, although the ironic ending is interesting. Also, SAVAGES has a strong Romantic, amoral worldview with abundant foul language, other explicit lewd content, extreme violence, and frequent marijuana use. Finally, only one criminal is really punished. Thus, in the world of SAVAGES, there are no consequences to your actions, if you play your cards right.