Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch are Ben and Chon, entrepreneurs, drug dealers and two thirds of a love triangle with California cutie Ophelia (Blake Lively). They sell a potent strain of legal medical grade marijuana but also siphon off some for illicit practice and profit, which earns the attention of a Mexican Baja drug Cartel run by Elena (Salma Hayek). She’ll do anything to create a “joint” venture, including kidnapping their shared paramour.
Richard: Mark, I knew I was in for an over-the-top Oliver Stone movie from Savages’ opening minutes. The “wargasm” reference was my first clue and by the time Benicio Del Toro literally twirled his moustache like a pantomime baddie, I knew this wasn’t the same director who gave us W and World Trade Center, this is Stone in Natural Born Killers mode. It’s wild, but I found it more flamboyant than fun. You?
Mark: Well, Richard, let’s see … guns, drugs, threesomes; sounds like hanging out with Sam Kinison in the ’80s. Actually, I think this is Stone’s best picture since Reagan was President. He’s working viscerally here and you can feel everything: the coastal languors of Laguna Beach, the scuzziness of Mexican border towns, Blake Lively’s silken suntan. For a violent popcorn movie, I found it pretty sensual. Did you think the leads held their own with the scenery?
RC: It’s definitely a good-looking movie from the stars to the scenery, but I thought the cast was really interesting as well as pretty. Johnson and Kitsch are good and evil, flip sides of the same coin, Lively isn’t as sprightly as her name might suggest, but she does do damaged quite well. I also enjoyed Travolta, Hayek and Del Toro chewing the scenery but I felt it hard to care about any of them. They’re all rather despicable, and I found myself hoping they’d all end up in a Mexican standoff.
MB: Well, it is a drug movie after all, so you know there will be double-crosses galore. I think you’re supposed to care about the Blake Lively character, as the innocent of the bunch, but she’s a bit vapid to really identify with. Del Toro makes, as usual, a great baddie, although Travolta stole the show for me with his corrupt DEA agent. But you’d think for a guy on the take, he’d have a much better haircut.
RC: Ha! It’s a haircut almost as bad as the ending. No spoilers … but it felt like a cheat.
MB: The ending wants to have its pot brownie and eat it too, but I appreciated the attempt to play with the narrative and our expectations. For me, it was flamboyant and fun.