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For anybody that thought Oliver Stone was a completely washed up director who is now fully in bed with the studios, making affable (or laughable) sequels like “Wall Street: Money Never Dies” and mild-mannered efforts like “W.,” look no further for inspiration that an auteur still exists within the audacious director than his newest release “Savages.”
“Savages” tells the story of how a threesome of acquisitive love can come to an end in a heartbeat – especially when you are illegal pot growers from Laguna who mess with the wrong Mexican cartel. Ben is a former U.S. Navy Seal and Chon is a U.C. Berkeley graduate, and they are best friends but they only share two capitalistic likenesses between them. They go 50/50 on their profits from their marijuana grow operation and on their naughty and sensual girlfriend Ophelia. All hell breaks loose when the drug-dealing-duo turns down an offer to supply Elena Sanchez’s cartel with their high-grade, 33% THC cannabis sativa and Ophelia gets kidnapped and held for ransom.
Apparently, when you turn down a drug cartel, Warren Mo'Fuckin Oates comes after you. Benecio Del Toro plays Sanchez’s right hand man, Lado, who modernly personifies the violence Oates’ character often encompassed in classics like “The Wild Bunch.” This is not the guy – or the cartel – you want coming after you, especially when Salma Hayek is the self-indulgent bitch playing Elena who barks orders at Lado and when you're protecting the stupid but innocent and alluring Ophelia. Blake Lively plays O as the guys call her, and might I say both her acting ability and her attractiveness magnetize the majority of your attention when she's on screen. Lively is a epicurean force to be reckoned with, and she's got a big time career ahead of her in movies.
Regardless of Lively's affectionate character, Oliver Stone uses violence in a way that we have not been exposed to in America lately. The latest movie I can remember that was as violent as “Savages” is Nicholas Winding Refn’s 2011 effort “Drive,” and that being released almost a year ago (and featuring much less barbarity than Stone's film) validates the fact that we should appreciate when directors make cocky efforts like Oliver has with this film.
To compare “Savages” stylistically to another famous Oliver Stone film, “Natural Born Killers” immediately comes to mind – at least stylistically. At heart, though, that aforementioned masterpiece is an attack on the media, while his newer movie is a much more subtle attack on the over-punishable drug laws. Sure, it’s violent and nearly unbelievable at times, but Stone, in an understated and not nearly overstated manner, is displaying to us the violence that originates from drug prohibition. He shows us that a hipster nerd and a badass Veteran can come together to control a black market until bigger powers come in and with violence and savagery can overtake their illegal operation.
And there’s nobody better to tell us why marijuana should be legalized and taxed like alcohol than Oliver Stone – who’s been arrested several times on drug charges himself and likes handling delicate topics like sensitive historical periods and presidential biopics within his films. If you’ve got a little bit of savage in you, then I highly recommend the action-packed “Savages.”
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