Combustible Celluloid
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With: Blake Lively, Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Emile Hirsch, Sandra Echeverría
Written by: Shane Salerno, Don Winslow, Oliver Stone, based on the novel by Don Winslow
Directed by: Oliver Stone
MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal and grisly violence, some graphic sexuality, nudity, drug use and language throughout
Running Time: 129
Date: 06/25/2012

Savages (2012)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Immobile 'Savages'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

At one time, a new Oliver Stone movie was like a threat. Natural Born Killers, for example, used a pulp screenplay to say something incendiary about the callousness of media. Soon after, he 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. 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 up with his supporting roles. 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 fishtank 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.
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